Martin Archer often heard in larger group contexts, such as the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, but he recently formed a trio under his own name, apparently after hearing the bass-playing of Michael Bardon (showcased on that solo record The Gift Of Silence). Percussionist Walt Shaw (from Deep Tide Quartet, Engine Room Favourites and other Discus-related projects) complete the trio for See You Soon Or See You Sometime (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 127CD).
On this August 2021 date, they’ve come up with a remarkable set, in places closer perhaps to a form of art music than conventional jazz. Even though it’s a classic jazz set-up with tenor sax, bass and drums, there is much free improvisation, and also one instance of a graphic score, provided by Shaw. At least three of the six tracks here are chilling in their minimalistic and elliptical form, every player throwing stark shapes and creating a rather cold, abstract music, haunted by a rather stern and disillusioned air. ‘Evaabje’, from Shaw’s graphic score, is my personal favourite in this vein, although the opener ‘Rotten Star’ comes a close second; Shaw’s score is reproduced inside the gatefold, occupying three of the six panels, resembling a Kandinsky painting with just a few simple letters and numbers to guide the players across its unfamiliar landscape. Fans of more conventional blowage will enjoy the hot blasting of the title track, possibly the one piece here that comes closest to realising Archer’s AACM aspirations; and ‘Improvisation In Traditional Form’, with its very bold dynamics, unexpected interplay and episodes of deep brooding. I can see how Bardon is bringing a lot to the “foundation” that Archer claims to be looking for, and he shines more brightly here than on that solo record, which seemed to me more of an exercise in technique. Walt Shaw is the revelation for this listener, being given more than enough space to demonstrate his avant leanings and strange sounds, but I also admire his modesty and restraint, as of one not wishing to boast about his powerful innovations.
Between them, this trio have come close to remaking Sun Ra’s Strange Strings in their own image. From 1st March 2022.