Axes of Symmetry
USA ANALOG ARTS NO NUMBER CD (2014)
Like a rainy day, an introspective mood tames the excesses of this trumpet, guitar and drums trio, to the point at which this personal pantheon of jazz standards – among which ‘Straight No Chaser’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ – becomes a thoughtful exercise in deconstruction, which injects our men right inside their inspiration material: filling listening space with but an undercoat of sparse gestures and a plangent yet oddly valedictory attitude. Bruce Friedman’s trumpet is all flutter and fragility, tentatively holding middle ground (and barely assumed lead role) between Derek Bomback’s lambent, six-string sauntering and the tasteful taps and rolls that flick forth from Alan Cook’s kit. Taking root within this astringent retrospection are five ‘Free Improvisation’ pieces: more dynamic and angular in aspect, while only playfully tampering with the erstwhile ‘less is more’ ethos. One for a Sunday afternoon, either in CD form or via free download from Derek Bomback’s Bandcamp page.
Ben Bennett / Jack Wright
USA PUBLIC EYESORE 130 CD (2014)
No yawns heard in the vicinity of the livewire sax and drums duo of Jack Wright and Ben Bennet. On Tangle – a missive arising from apparently many years’ interaction – they lunge from one attitude to another with the mysterious grace of escape artists, while foregoing – to my gratitude – the tendency of the less disciplined to locked themselves into phlegm-drenched squawk n’thud barrage. Their winding path is far more enticing: Wright’s alto and soprano saxes contorting in strange and ever strategic displays: segregated from any kind of melodic temptation, he instead plumbs the full depth of his bag of breathing tricks with unyielding focus, hopping from one feat to the next as though charting every last millimetre of his brassy surfaces. Bennett does more than keep pace: rattling, scraping, shoving and shuffling around and beyond the surface of his kit, providing both a foil and a taut surface for Wright’s deft breathwork. While their ‘see where it goes’ mentality does obviate any possibility of narrative development, the fine details – many and varied as they are – never prove disagreeable.
The International Nothing
The Dark Side of Success
JAPAN FTARRI ftarri-218 CD (2014)
Low-key, deep-listening duets for clarinet recorded in September 2013. In this culminating chapter of a trilogy, the Berlin-based duo of improvisers-cum-composers Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke have gone all out for their enclosed, extraordinarily long-winded exercises: their breaths slithering and snaking intimately, often conjuring up an ear-piercing third voice, while yielding a striking and palpable something out of nearly nothing. While there’s little to differentiate one piece from another (beyond running time), the devil’s in the depths of detail: these compositions avoid repetition as readily as melody; foregrounding a deep, tonal exploration that never fails to fascinate and frequently turns up new novelties like the metallic pings of colliding vehicles on ‘Pop Music’ or the twittering swells of ‘Lebensverlängernde Maßnahmen’. The hard gatefold sleeve depicting slowly gliding, thick-skinned pterodactyls is a worthy illustration of the sound, which should satisfy many a weary listener in need of audio therapy.
Stanley Schumacher / David Taylor
No Technique for Three Trombones
USA MUSIKMACHER PRODUCTIONS MMC01 (2013)
‘Perfect Symmetry for Perfect Order’ runs the ironic tagline for this interesting composition, which consists of exactly forty-two minutes of technique-free, texture-based antics for ‘State-Approved Trombonist’ David Taylor. While one might infer Douglas Adams from this figure, composer Stanley Schumacher riffs instead on George Orwell, transporting us to 2084, where ‘the long-dreamed-of totalitarian utopia is in place’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence has achieved parity with human intelligence’. The piece follows an almost respiratory rhythm – one ever widening albeit – consisting of three main constituents: a resonant tone, suspended and rolled out to lung capacity, which then submits to a grunt of relief and a long metallic inhalation before beginning anew. The cycle lasts for six minutes, but is gradually and repeatedly overlaid, assuming a peculiar form of artificial autonomy over time. The ‘completed’ composition theoretically lasts for twenty one minutes, with the second half – perhaps arbitrarily decided by the listener – being a ‘mirror’ and/or a ‘retrograde’ of the first. Listeners are tacitly advised to create their own ‘segments’ by starting and stopping the piece according to personal preference, and thus exercising some form of armchair anarchy against the stricture of Big Brother-approved composition.