Album Reviews

Glenn Jones – My Garden State – Album Review (Thrill Jockey)


“This is where the frogs live”

Writing in 2009, Composer and Percussionist Gerry Hemingway spoke of ‘place’ in music. This can be the place one experiences music in and also the emotional input the listener invests, becoming over time, a way of thinking about music as a place. [all about jazz]

The bonds formed in our memory between music, locality and an emotional state can be staggeringly powerful.  The associations we make with music and our memory of events and circumstance can become unbreakable.

So, the ‘place’ in “My Garden State”, in the most straightforward interpretation, is a real one. The New Jersey home and environs former Cul-de-Sac guitarist Glenn Jones inhabits. It is here and in nearby Allentown that he composed and recorded this music. The backdrop, as revealed by Mr. Jones in the sleeve notes, is the sad march of time and its inevitable consequences. After years of nursing his mother, ill with Alzheimer’s, the time came where she moved to a care home; “In 2012, my sisters and I oversaw the sale of my mom’s house — a bittersweet little job of work. When we finished, my sister Erin said, ‘Well, it’s time for some new people to make a life here.

10 beautiful compositions of complexity and ingenuity are laid out here using chimes, banjo and guitar. The primary influence is the American Primitive ‘Takoma’ school of John Fahey, someone Mr. Jones learned from, idolised and ultimately collaborated with. Speaking about Fahey, Mr. Jones said I’m proud to be an apple that’s fallen off that tree. But I think that there’s enough in what I do that’s my own that I don’t need to apologize for anything.

There is a symmetry at play in this collection. Wind chimes open and close the album, the two middle tracks; “The Vernal Pool” and “Alcouer Gardens” offer a microcosm view of Mr. Jones considerable abilities – Release notes tell us these pieces “were composed spontaneously in the studio,” – Either side of these we travel though blues tinged folk via exemplary technical and artistic prowess.

If a sense of place is a theme, then “Alcouer Gardens” gives us the climate too. Rain and rumbling thunder are the accompaniment to some beautiful guitar lines. Starting in a melancholy vein and filled with nostalgia, around the halfway mark, Jones introduces an upbeat riff. Flowing like a mountain stream it echoes the melody from the earlier “Going Back to East Montgomery”.

This might strike the listener; in many compositions there are melodies that seem familiar, structures are reused, but altered. It gives these tracks a resemblance to each other despite their obvious differences. Like looking at a landscape and focusing on a different field at a time. Even the running times of pieces are mirror the track in the opposite position. This produces the sensation of a walk that follows a circular path. I must confess to leaving this album on endless repeat; and like an amble around the garden, sometimes another lap is difficult to resist.

Catching a live performance by Glenn Jones may prove difficult in some parts of the world, only two summer dates confirmed so far for the east of North America, but it is well worth checking out some examples on-line of Jones’ playing.

The Album is Available from May 14th 2013 – Get it here

Review by CD

Glenn Jones, picking up the John Fahey legacy

The Washington Post 26/10/11

The Art of Listening: A Sense of Place

Gerry Hemingway – All about Jazz

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