There are no fewer than 32 musicians within this myriad of 20 pieces, some of which are snippets of audio that run for no more than 30 seconds. All of which make the work as much a series of scenes as a collection of tracks. There is a strong spoken word element in the arrangements – many lyrics are delivered almost like paraded soliloquies, if not deep confessions, in which poetic references to heat, light and shade are prevalent.
For example: “There’s a darkness that settles in the palm of her hand/ it’s a darkness that knows where I am.” Such tender poetry loosely evokes the world of the movie Kiss Of The Spider Woman, which was was memorably scored by Wally Badarou.
Unremittingly sensual, Hanrahan’s music is largely anchored in the dense Afro-Cuban rhythms supplied by his stalwart collaborators, the master congueros Milton Cardona, Richie Flores, Giovanni Hidalgos and Steve Berrios. However, the input of stellar figures drawn from jazz, soul and rock, such as bassists Steve Swallow and Fernando Saunders, guitarist Brandon Ross and saxophonists J.D Allen, and Chico Freeman, ensures that there is great finesse in the myriad layers of harmonic detail woven around a highly danceable core sound.
Hanrahan thus has a signature style, which is instantly recognizable to anybody who is familiar with past glories such as Desire Develops An Edge, but his artistic triumph lies in the wily new twists he brings to the model without ever erasing any of its marks of distinction. For example, the burst of fired-up but nonetheless bolted-down hyper time drumming that powers the achingly soulful ‘Our Reflection In The Turbulent Heat’, a tale that provokes us with claims of ‘the devil’s way of making it right’, is an absolutely arresting moment. It is a stark reminder of Hanrahan’s ability to give adrenalin shots to his cinematic languor.
Having said that the artwork has a decidedly political magnitude. On the outer cover there is a photo of the U.S air force reaper drone deployed in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Pakistan and Niger. On the inner there is the iconic gun-to-the-head execution of Vietnam.
The contrast of such horror with the beauty of the music is emphatic but there is a deeply rooted congruity between the two, because for all of the focus on nostalgia, intimacy and the stuttering pull of life there is the menacing push of death, the surly dread of the dreamless moon. A gemstone for very dark times.
Kip Hanrahan, Crescent Moon Waning (Enja/Yellow Bird)