Pan Pan: Live at the Redlight

While I typically am put off by song-by-song reviews, this release from PanPan seems the most fitting recipient of such a treatment, due mostly to its flow and consistent voice. The live aspect also lends a performance consideration.

Leading track “Quiet be Good to Me” has a bittersweet theme that, once it locks in, is transfixing and hints at the current voice of PanPan. Second track “Your Hours” has less focus and sounds more like a backing track for a vocal song. Ryan’s tone in the climax (crescendo?) is raspy and restrained, seemingly masterful, but I am in no place to make that claim. C Minor is a lovely key. “Looking for Simple” starts without you knowing that “Your Hours” has ended, and its build is resolute, leading you to a tranquil, windy passage; sparse but expressive. Thoughts on the “Unrelated” brings some signature Pan Pan to the fore with busier, syncopated chord bashing, but where Pan Pan would typically blow up into a rowdy, raucous jam, there is room to breathe and some nice, classically-styled piano soloing. I have to wonder at this point, having not been in attendance at the recording, whether Ms. Jerns went on a bit of a departure here and left her band to pick up where they see fit, as they did, or if this was a rehearsed break. It certainly alludes to a tangent, as the theme does not appear later in the song. Or, if it does, it is obscure and transmuted beyond my recognition, which is so very possible. Hey guys look at me, I’m critiquing modern jazz! I’m an expert, I aced music 231! (Author’s note: I totally did)

Lullaby for R.P.W. Is lovely, with a rising theme that shifts register as the lead melody dictates and fades naturally to a conclusion without reaching heights beyond what a ‘lullaby’ should. The finale, “The After,” is a powerful and dark, but active and busy statement. No one goes crazy, but all three musicians contribute to the piece without stepping over each other or performing redundant parts. It’s a really nice balance and interplay.

Overall, this is an excellent release from a remarkably solid and interesting group. It may work best in the midst of an extended listening session, as on its own it is subtle and understated compared to previous releases.