David Haney: Face Of A Thousand Hymns + Phantom Melodies

Pianist and colleagues improvise unilaterally and on fragments from Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Heitor Villa Lobos, and Samuel Barber

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Across these two releases pianist Haney stakes out some pretty rarefied territory, which is no mean achievement in this age of recorded plenty, but I must confess that despite repeated listening and focus I can’t hear much that I find compelling.

Although nominally jazz, music as individual as that on these releases pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of falling outside of the term’s reach. Ambient it may be, but on some tracks on Phantom Melodies (described as “improvisations based on fragments from Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Heitor Villa Lobos, Samuel Barber”) Haney is barely audible; there is little which drew me in, and while individuality is implicit in this, trying to come to terms with the music is a demanding task rife with implications of little reward.

That said, in Phantom Melody number three (apparently from Heitor Villa Lobos’s Prelude No. 4) there is sufficient intrigue to pull one into what is essentially 21st century chamber music. The same is true of the sixteenth Phantom Melody, a duo for drums and programmed keyboard which because of that programming obviously incorporates an element of pre-determination.

Face Of A Thousand Hymns reminds me of nothing as much as Barricade 3, the 1976 first album by the French duo ZNR. As there, the music at times seems inscrutably personal, as though the duo of Haney and multi-instrumentalist Dave Storrs are working out some musical sub-dialect playable only by some variation on the theme of true believers. Thus, Track Three finds Haney seemingly engaged in a conscious attempt at avoiding anything as logical as a line, while Storr’s audible presence is negligible. Track Eleven offers evidence of Haney the post-Cecil Taylor pianist in the sense that he conjures a brooding, minor-key atmosphere ripe with implications which in a manner almost antithetical to Taylor’s are never followed through on.


Discography
[Face Of A Thousand Hymns] Track One; Track Two; Track Three; Track Four; Track Five; Track Six; Track Seven; Track Eight; Track Nine; Track Ten; Track Eleven; Track Twelve; Track Thirteen; Track Fourteen (35.15)
Haney (p, with mallets and ebows); Dave Storrs (all other instruments). Eagle Valley Methodist Church, Richmond, Oregon, USA, 2012 and Sound Shack, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2021.
Cadence Media Records CMR 023
[Phantom Melodies] Track One; Track Two; Track Three; Track Four; Track Five; Track Six; Track Seven; Track Eight; Track Nine; Track Ten; Track Eleven; Track Twelve; Track Thirteen; Track Fourteen; Track Fifteen; Track Sixteen; Track Seventeen; Track Eighteen (59.57)
Haney (p, kyb); Dave Storrs (multiple instruments); Ben Woodman (b). Sound Shack, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 6 December 2021.
Cadence Media Records CMR 020