Karesansui by Tantric Doctors


Tantric Doctors is Sheffield’s free jazz man Adam Woolf and his new album Karesansui (Focused Silence) is now out on CD/DL. One single forty-five minute improvised track fueled at first by clarinet and stony silences, jerky percussion and dubs. The channeled static is effective in that it breaks the teetering charm of the horn with atonal stops and starts. The word karesansui translates to Japanese rock garden. My guess is his interpretation is the intricate details of placing trees, waterways, rockery – like a game of chess, there is infinite strategy to get it just right. But instead this work is quite counterbalanced by its ornery nature.


This defines the whole phrase ‘doctors without borders’. Instead of a typical jazz vibe it’s as though Woolf is turning his instrument into an Atari controller, with blare, bleeps, and squiggly synth-aesthetics. This would take much decoding, but there is a fragmented traveling storyline here. The percussive squawk and staggered pauses are emphasized in the between by gassy sounds and inventive percussion. The arcade feel, at times, sounds like a storybook, retro-computer making a tabulation. And then expect the unexpected as he brings in flashes of bass strum making the whole atmosphere unsettled. Until about 3/4s the way through when the atmosphere has a bit of settle with a mellow, moodier horn, and staged mishegas. At one moment it’s as if he’s extinguishing a fire, the next engorged with layers of playful spirit. Until the end which comes together in creaky electronics and despondent clarinet. The garden laid here is encoded with messages from the past/present/future.

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