You're my thrill (btl)
One Christine Tobin album a year is
pretty good going - two within a six-month period seems like utter luxury.
First we had Tobin's 'You Draw the Line '(Babel, 99) in late
spring. Now we have Peter Herbert's 'You're My Thrill '(BTL, 99).
From its sketchy packaging and notes, this initially appears to be
album by Austrian composer and bassist Herbert. The cover, a thin card
folder, shows a bearded man gesticulating at traffic from the pavement.
This presumably relates in some way to the 18-minute Communications
which combines found sounds of New York street life with Herbert's edgy
But the meat of the album is the 35-minute You're My Thrill, which
features Tobin singing songs associated with Billie Holiday: Solitude,
Porgy, Gloomy Sunday, Ain't Nobody's Business and the title track. It's
project that Tobin originally tried to get off the ground with
Mark-Anthony Turnage. Her idea was to rearrange the songs into a suite
contemporary classical arrangements that could be performed by a modernist
The project lay dormant after Turnage became too busy to proceed, but
sprang back to life when Tobin discovered that Herbert, who played bass
alongside famous jazz drummer Billy Hart on her 2000 album Deep Song,
a parallel life as a contemporary composer.
For many people, Billie Holiday's voice is the sound that defines jazz
- nothing to do with notes and chords, but an intensely moving, audible
sensation. So in some regards You're My Thrill is a kind of Third Stream
fantasia, a creative and very European (Irish-Austrian) response to
African-American sound. The Gershwins' Porgy develops into a sinister
tango: the musicians of Ensemble Plus rip into the rhythmic passages
relish. Gloomy Sunday stays true to the song's content without self-pity.
Solitude is starkly affecting.
Tobin's voice has an edge that recalls more over-the-top singers - the
dangerous bite of Cathy Berberian, the damaged croak of Marianne Faithfull
- without ever lurching into melodrama. She performs with a controlled
drama that integrates perfectly with Herbert's intricate, imaginative
settings. This is a suite you could imagine at a future Huddersfield
contemporary music festival, alongside Stravinsky, Ligeti and Turnage,
as a London jazz festival centrepiece alongside George Russell, Hans
Koller and Mike Gibbs. A splendid achievement.