By Jon Ross | Published September 2019
The concept behind Ben Goldberg’s erudite Good Day For Cloud Fishing, an album of original tunes inspired by Dean Young’s poems, is best summed up by guitarist Nels Cline. The album, he writes in the liners, comprises “music inspired by poetry and performed while the poet who inspired it sat typing new poems inspired by the music he inspired.” The smartly packaged album comes along with 24 poems, two to a card, meant to be read with each track.
The setup seems too clever by half, but the result is exhilarating; grouping Cline and trumpeter Ron Miles with Goldberg’s various clarinets is inspired. Miles’ timbre—a dark, masked tone—sinks into the reedy warmth of the clarinet. Cline’s guitar can be unobtrusive or forceful—both with sublime effect.
On a whole, the album is full of serene, composed music, some pieces rooted in a jazz aesthetic, while others drift away, poking through imaginary genre boundaries. It’s beautiful, both in its integrity and in its quiet blend of sonorities, until it isn’t.
Cloud Fishing is part of the renewed trend that uses poetry as a symbiotic partner to make the collaborative whole better than its parts. Goldberg’s contribution is not as whimsically madcap as Matt Wilson’s Carl Sandburg interpretation, nor does it rely on spoken word, like pianist Lawrence Hobgood’s intimate collaborations with Robert Pinsky. Many of the tracks here stand on their own, but some of the more impressionistic tunes, which function as an abstract sound world, beg for a resonant recitation of Young’s verse.
Good Day For Cloud Fishing: Demonic Possession Is 9/10ths The Law; Parthenogenesis; Phantom Pains; A Rhythmia; Corpse Pose; Because She Missed A Test, She Introduces Me To Her Boa; Reality; Sub Club Punch Card; Ant-Head Sutures; Someone Has To Be Lowered Into The Whale Skull For The Ambergris; Surprised Again By Rain; An Ordinary Day Somewhere. (59:59)
Personnel: Ben Goldberg, B-flat clarinet, contra-alto clarinet; Ron Miles, trumpet; Nels Cline, guitar; Dean Young, typewriter.