I admit I’m not a lover of musical generalizations, genres and easy labels. I also admit that I don’t like Genesis and instead I declare myself a Crimson King’s fan. What I don’t admit and I don’t understand, I don’t understand why in some reviews I have read about this record, the term “progressive” is used so much. What has this music about “progressive”? In my opinion, absolutely nothing, but let’s go step by step.
From a certain point of view this record is out of time: it recalls the masterpieces recorded by Bill Evans and Jim Hall and by Allan Holdsworth with Gordon Beck. I almost feel a sense of nostalgia in the elegant formula adopted by Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband, the memory of a non-digital age where the instrumental ability was held in the highest consideration and where the interplay between improvisers was one of the decisive elements for the success of a record . A bygone era, but that era created a professional and musical ethic that continues to produce masterpieces of balance and taste like this “Tor & Vale”, produced by the beloved MoonJune Records which seems to be destined to act as a glue and as a meeting place for a group of brilliant and extremely creative musicians.
Why don’t I consider this record as “progressive”? First of all because it’s mainly improvised music, I know that it seems almost unbelievable listening to it but it’s like this: in this record there is no compositional structure in the traditional sense. It’s simply the creative balance between Mark Wingfield and Gary Husband that seems to give rise to structured and well-elaborated compositions, to arrangements that in reality are not the result of a desk work but of an exceptional interplay. Secondly, if to a first listening this album seems a tribute from the past to reality, then it is revealed as a transposition into the present of a skilful mix of updated languages.
Gary Husband’s piano is immediately recognizable in his intimate and melodic liquidity and Mark Wingfield’s guitar knows how to respond and in turn create a carpet of lush chromatic textures on which the piano grows again, creating and expanding ideas. And the sound. Wingfield’s guitar is simply “spatial”. The sound is intimate and stretched into the distance at the same time. Do you know what is the “Holy Grail” for a guitarists, right? The “perfect tone”. Well, Wingfield has his perfect tone and it’s gorgeous, with a simple and intense beauty that in some places almost takes your breath away because it wraps and bewitches you. This is a “stand alone” record. A small masterpiece truly out of time and suspended in its own creative dimension. Let yourself be fascinated. Booklet, photographs and packaging of the CD are simply impeccable. Recording quality reaches perfection.