Half Moon – Lalo
Like the flute or sitar, the vibraphone is an instrument which can make people uneasy regardless of what’s played on it — Robert Christgau, for instance, has suggested that it often leads to "tinkly fluff." I've always had a fondness for this instrument, though. Players from Lionel Hampton to Gary Burton demonstrated that the vibes could keep pace with the piano and saxophone through every stage of jazz, while Frank Zappa and a set of prog-rockers found that the instrument was good for both texture and attention-grabbing lead lines. More recently, Tortoise and their many imitators have found a role for the vibes in their brand of instrumental rock.
Pick up Half Moon and, admittedly, the first thing you’ll notice will probably not be Lalo’s instrument. She’s one of those players with the sort of looks that might make you think that the CD is aimed at folks who listen with their eyes. Put it on, though, and these considerations disappear. The central element in music is Lalo the composer more than Lalo the player, but her music fits the characteristics that one associates with the vibraphone — shimmering, intricate, dreamy.
Half Moon's opener, "Dreamwalker," establishes an ethereal mood which continues through most of the disc. Many of the pieces have thick arrangements which lead them close to prog-rock, with more of Tortoise’s ambient leanings than Zappa’s hyperactivity, but passages of improvisation lend a jazz element. Changes of pace come with the acoustic breakbeats of "Everyday," the tangled Rhodes hook of "Adventures of the BQE" and Lionel Loueke's South Africa-inflected guitar in "Curiosity."
Lalo's Hutcherson/Burton-styled improvising is less grabbing than her writing, but she has a musical vision which sets the disc apart. Take Toriyama and Ted Poor also deserve points for distinctive drum textures.
The one reservation is that Half Moon’s moods, so attractive at the start of the disc, lose some of their impact towards the end after a series of similar-sounding tracks. Lalo’s style might benefit from being set against another composer’s work. Still, Lalo is one to watch.