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Michael Davidson & Dan Fortin: Clock Radio (Elastic)

A review of the album from the vibist and bassist

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Clock Radio by Michael Davidson and Dan Fortin
The cover of Clock Radio by Michael Davidson and Dan Fortin

There’s purity in the clarity of a vibraphone and double bass, sans other instruments, working things out, a pair of distinctive, radically different melodic and harmonic voices finding the sweet spots. But what gives Clock Radio its greater value is that Michael Davidson, the vibist, and Dan Fortin, the bass man, refuse to leave it at that. There is much that can be done with these two instruments, they seem to be saying almost immediately in “Tür,” the opening track—written, as is everything here, by Davidson—so why go conventional? Restructure the rhythms, alter the attack, subtly adjust the sonics, and things get way more interesting.

Several improvisational tracks, each titled “Berlin” followed by a Roman numeral, veer to different but complementary places. Both musicians seem to take great comfort in that: “Berlin IV” is the most straightforward melodically, waiting until it’s just about finished to take its liberties; “Berlin I” lets the listener believe that Monk served as its inspiration, if only for a few seconds, before heading to places wholly unrelated; “Berlin VI” is minimal, conversational and ghostly.

Some of the most interesting sounds on Clock Radio take place within the briefest tune, the minute-long “Speigeln,” wherein spacey effects have their way until both bass and vibes emit single, unwavering, unrecognizable notes. “Delicate” is as advertised, its gaps defining what comes between them. Davidson and Fortin are of a single mind throughout Clock Radio, seeking to explore, and then reach beyond, the limits of what their two instruments are capable of when they’re the only two in the room.

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.