erasing clouds

Martin & Haynes, Freedman

review by dave heaton

I don’t know much about the Toronto-based lap steel player Myk Freedman. I haven’t heard him play. And I don’t know why Jean Martin and Justin Haynes are acting out Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends cover for their album of music by Freedman, titled Freedman (though the one song the duo wrote is titled, I guess appropriately, “Bookends”).

What I do know is it’s a special album that at times might be mistaken for un-special, for its lack of drama. Sometimes it seems like they’re just messing around, or tuning even; and then the strange little melodies they’re playing will grab hold, firmly. Even when not that, the same minimalist mood that threatens to be overlooked proves to be captivating, bringing all of your attention to the sound of two simple instruments. As it states on the inside cover: “All you’ll hear on this recording is a ukulele ad a suitcase.” Remarkable.

You may feel like you’re mostly hearing the ukulele. Haynes plays it nimbly and precisely, occasionally evoking, romantically, the great jazz guitarists of yore. But the suitcase is always there too, played as light percussion, adding an intimacy and also a distant strangeness.

This is music where sometimes the pleasures seem simple – melodies played on strings – yet you continually ask yourself, “what is going on here?” That’s true when the music get especially left-field, like on a backyard jam titled “October’s Bright Blue Abortion.” But also when it doesn’t, when the music is quiet and settled-down.


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