Georg Faust and Ben Dowling
2016 / VisionSound
Review by Kathy Parsons
Human is the result of the serendipitous meeting of two musical artists from different parts of the world seated together on a flight to Oslo, Norway. Georg Faust is the award-winning principal cellist for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Ben Dowling is an award-winning jazz pianist who lives in California. Although their musical worlds could be viewed as somewhat foreign to each other, music is a universal language that can easily transcend classifications, boundaries and genres. When something is meant to be, there is no room for resistance to what Fate has up her sleeve. When Faust’s orchestra later travelled to California, Faust and Dowling decided to set up a recording session at Dowling’s home studio and these improvised duets for piano and cello were born. Not surprisingly, a broad variety of influences can be heard in the music. Some pieces are more melodic and some more ambient, some are classically-structured and some have a stronger jazz-influence. What is consistent from beginning to end is the artistry of two very exceptional musicians who are fully present in the moment of creation and in synch with each other. The “star” of the album is the music of a shared experience that we can savor on so many levels.
One of the many unique features of this album is Faust’s use of the Campanula Cello, a newly-developed stringed instrument that has the four usual cello strings plus sixteen sympathetic-resonating strings that are located on the top face of the instrument and add a spatial sense to the sound of the cello. The cello still sounds like a cello, but the tone is richer and fuller.
Human opens with “First Light,” a piece that begins very delicately with the soft pastel tones of dawn. The piece gradually intensifies to brighter musical colors yet remains subdued and hushed - a gorgeous start! The title track is my favorite. Faust’s soulful cello goes straight to the heart with the poignant melody and his deeply emotional performance. Love it! Faust solos for the first segment of “Among Clouds” and then Dowling provides an ethereal, sparkling counterpoint as the cello takes flight. “Mathematics” is probably the edgiest and most free-form of the nine duets. Faust sets the tone of “The Sea” with an introductory solo that is dark, mysterious, and a bit turbulent at times. When the piano enters, the mood becomes much more calm and peaceful, although the tonal colors stay dark, suggesting the beauty of the ocean at night. This incredible piece really soars in the middle and then ebbs back to a quiet calm - another favorite! “Bots” is quite different. Lively and playful, it’s almost a musical game of tag with the piano in the lead, taunting and teasing the cello as it tries catch up - all very good-naturedly, of course! “Carried” is both elegant and graceful with the two instruments taking turns with the gentle melody - a heartfelt beauty. Dowling trades the piano for keyboards on “Emigre,” which is more layered and ethereal, bringing this truly exceptional album to a peaceful close.
Human is a fascinating listening experience, and allows the listener to hear new things in the music each time. The album is available from Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
April 17, 2017