The title of Brooklyn pianist/composer Eli Wallace’s first solo release entails something of an artful misdirection. Far from being about barriers—such as would separate compositional thinking from improvisational practice, or conventional pianism from technical experimentation—the recording seems instead to demonstrate the permeability of these otherwise antithetical categories, at least in Wallace’s hands.
Barriers is a single 38-minute live improvisation recorded in June 2018. Although unconventionally structured, Wallace’s performance is informed by a dynamism and tense energy that keeps the music moving forward as if by logical predestination. Wallace takes care to create complex textures of sometimes startling juxtapositions: jittery bursts of notes and chords give way to anticipatory silences and such gestural counterpoint as having one hand drum on the outside of the piano while the other plays directly on the strings inside. This is an assured, richly considered performance that carries the listener along with it.