Mark Weinstein - Milling Time
Released in Ukraine on Rostok Records in 2002, Milling Time is both a physical excursion to Ukraine for Mark Weinstein, as well as an excursion in terms of 'genre' territory, into broadly classical crossover land. It was also a kind of spiritual pilgrimage to the land of his father's birth.
Regrettably, the liner notes of Mark Weinstein's Milling Time are almost entirely in Ukrainian (or possibly Russian?). However, we can glean from the English part of the liner that Weinstein was introduced to the music of Ukrainian composer Alexey Kharchenko by Alex Shleyenkov and was interested in recording his music. In Ukraine, the album was rehearsed and recorded in ten days, with the music sometimes composed in the studio, the instrumentation consisting of Mark Weinstein's flute, the composer on Roland RD-500 and acoustic piano, and the guitar of Ukrainian Dmitri Dorosh. Kharchenko describes the album as experimental, and in spirit close to jam session. The three musicians were previously unknown to one another.
The titles of some individual pieces on Milling Time may well seem somewhat surreal, but the music certainly is not. Being something of a dedicated surrealist, I actually find those titles rather attractive, and it's almost a bit of a let-down to discover that the music doesn't follow suit. No incongruity here. In fact, the music of Alexey Kharchenko is remarkably accessible at all times and indeed possesses a great deal of charm. And the very fact that jazz flute titan Mark Weinstein played and recorded this music ought to be more than sufficient recommendation in itself.
While there is no information to be found on the web on Alexey Kharchenko, I would hazard to guess that he comes from a classical angle, with modern classical being clearly the most dominant style of his compositions on Milling Time. Ukrainian folk influences and elements are also discernible here and there, but overall, I would describe Milling Time as a (modern) classical Third Stream or crossover album, for those who absolutely must have some sort of "genre" identification. Elsewhere on the web, and the guilty shall remain nameless here, I came across a mention of "smooth jazz" in connection with Milling Time. Now, nothing could be further from the truth than this, as far as I am concerned, and in any event, "smooth jazz" is probably one of the most ghastly genre labels ever dreamed up by some tortured mind. It describes precisely nothing. For myself, the only 'label' of any real significance is good music, or great music.
But on to Mark Weinstein's Milling Time itself. The opener, Lily Of The Valley, begins with some "found sounds" - what sounds like footsteps in crisp snow, a creaking door, the bell and rumble of a tram (streetcar for those on the other side of the pond) - but it soon settles down to a few bars of keyboards and guitar before Mark Weinstein's very lyrical flute enters. Alexey Kharchenko's synth here sounds mostly almost vibes-like, laying down a dreamy background to Weinstein's romantic flute improvs, or extemporisations for those from a classical background. Waiting For The Midnight has an almost bossa-like swing to it at times, with relaxed soloing all round. The up-tempo Rainbow Under The Snow is one of the pieces on Milling Time that most clearly reveals its Eastern European roots, almost a kind of Chopin with swing, utterly delightful with Weinstein's flute dancing merrily. "Rain For Two" Blues is a duet for flute and acoustic piano, reflective, even melancholy, with especially Mark Weinstein's flute often plaintive but always subtle. You really don't want this piece to end, even though at over six minutes it is the longest on Milling Time. The witty Sweet Pepper Punch swings beautifully in a very Eastern European sort of style. It surprises with a delightful change to double time in the last minute on keyboard and guitar. Weinstein's flute again turns somewhat plaintive, highly lyrical in the first part of Colombina Triste before turning to a more happy folk dance, almost incongruously given the title of this piece. This dance is then also beautifully taken up by Kharchenko's acoustic piano, and we are treated to some wonderful exchanges between Weinstein and Kharchenko. Weinstein's flute lyrically opens Vocalese, a duet for flute and synth. True to the title, Weinstein's flute comes as close to the human voice as I have ever heard from any (western) instrument. The tune has a distinct Eastern European folk feel to it. The guitar of Dmitri Dorosh features prominently, and deftly, on Evil Joke, and I've never heard Mark Weinstein's flute sounding more satirical and sinister. White Gees' Song (White Geese's Song?) is a solo for Alex Kharchenko's Roland RD-500 synth, ethereal and dream-like. Weinstein tells the Fairy Tale with his flute most eloquently, with some wonderful exchanges among flute, piano and synth towards the end. The title of the next track is a bit of a mystery, as it is only printed in Cyrillic script. But no matter, it's the music that counts. It is another duet for flute and piano, and here Mark Weinstein makes the most extensive use of the low register of his flute yet, staying with it most of the time - on an album where he uses it fairly extensively throughout -, often contrasting beautifully with the sparkling ivories on this mostly reflective, introspective piece. The self-titled closer is a gently swinging - especially in the guitar - piece with Weinstein's most strongly jazz-tinged flute on Milling Time, and very romantic and lyrical throughout. The soloing here is extensive also on guitar and synth. The track brings the album full circle with more footsteps in snow and a creaking door being firmly shut.
Mark Weinstein's Milling Time and the music of Alexey Kharchenko are utterly enchanting and captivating. Weinstein proves yet again that he can apply his flute to any genre or style of music with the greatest of ease and complete credibility with this totally compelling and consistent album. Milling Time must be considered essential in any good music collection.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
1. Lily of The Valley - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500 - 4:43
2. Waiting For The Midnight - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500 - 5:26
3. Rainbow Under The Snow - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500 - 2:58
4. "Rain For Two" Blues - flute, acoustic piano - 6:18
5. Sweet Pepper Punch - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500, acoustic piano - 3:22
6. Colombina Triste - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500, acoustic piano - 5:29
7. Vocalese - flute, Roland RD-500 - 3:30
8. Evil Joke - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500, acoustic piano - 4:05
9. White Gees' Song - Roland RD-500 - 4:28
10. Fairy Tale - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500, acoustic piano - 5:08
11. Unknown title (in Ukrainian/Cyrillic script only) - flute, acoustic piano - 4:26
12. Milling Time - flute, guitar, Roland RD-500, acoustic piano - 4:37