Whirl of Nothingness

Whirl of Nothingness

by Paul Flaherty


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Whirl of Nothingness is the follow-up to 2003's Voices. In the three years between the release of these two solo albums, Paul Flaherty went from very obscure New England free sax player to a somewhat higher-profile artist, thanks to a busy release schedule, collaborations with Thurston Moore, and the ever-increasing renown of his hard-working duo with drummer Chris Corsano. Voices displayed an unparalleled level of urgency; Whirl of Nothingness is more of a lament. In his liner notes, Flaherty (always very good at putting his music in context) writes about pain and suffering, murder and genocide, and the God who lets it all happen. "And we try to understand what it's all about...and we can't...we can't." There is sorrow, incomprehension, and rage in these solo pieces, all poignantly expressed by Flaherty's tortured runs, ear-splitting multiphonics, exhausting acrobatics without a net, and sudden shifts toward devastatingly lyrical jazz melodies. Being somewhat calmer and more subdued than Voices, this album is a bit more listenable for the unsuspecting ear, something done without compromising its drive or emotional presence. In "Firetrance Lonely Heartache Still," Flaherty strikes an uncanny balance between buzzing multiphonics and delicate instant melodies. With "Sweetly Danced in Times of Hurtful Pleasure," he delivers one of his most soulful performances yet. And in the middle of "Monsters Hide in Plain Sight Dark," when the instrument proves insufficient to hold and carry the man's emotional baggage, Flaherty simply bursts into screams of rage and sorrow, startling the listener, sharing. The whole album is worth it for that particular track alone, its genuine honesty deserving a high position in the pantheon of sax music.

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