Sunday, May 27, 2012
Jooklo Duo & Bill Nace – Scratch (Holidays Records) ****1/2
By Tom Burris
Early last year, Jooklo Duo released a 7” record (“The Warrior” on the Northern Spy label) consisting of two bite-sized blasts that were, if not refined, then at least condensed representations of their unique take on the duo lineup. The format lent itself to the idea that Virginia Genta (tenor sax, mainly) and David Vanzan (percussion, mainly) could lean into the noise-rock realm as readily as it had previously under the free jazz model.
In June 2011, the Italian duo toured the U.S. with NYC avant-noise guitarist Bill Nace in tow, furthering the sonic possibilities of their foray into snuff jazz. In that same month, evidently before they set out for the boonies and burgs of the U.S. - (I saw them in Lafayette, Indiana!) – they recorded “Scratch,” an LP limited to 350 copies on multi-colored vinyl, which is a very fine representation of their stateside summer onstage collision course.
Trust me; this is not merely a buy-and-file-away collectible record. The trio opens with a blast that is both open to any and all musical possibilities and compressed with tightly-wound energy. When Vanzan drops out about halfway through the first side, there is a short moment of metal machine music from Genta and Nace, and then all three somehow manage to elevate the intensity, while eventually Genta emerges from the flames playing ecstatic Pharoah-type figures.
Side 2 opens with a continuation of the firestorm, inconceivably ascending to even crazier heights, before the splatter percussion drops out and Genta belts out insane pterodactyl shrieks from her sax. Suddenly the whole thing opens up, with Vanzan – playing beautiful mallet percussion – doing a short duet with Nace before a brief moment of Genta’s bamboo flute comes floating overhead. Then suddenly she picks up the sax for some gorgeous runs dripped in occasional multi-phonics.
The storm finally clears with Vanzan’s gentle mallet work, Genta on melodica, and Nace gently bowing the guitar strings. Then Vanzan picks up the flute and all three swirl around in a fog that sounds a bit like the Sun Ra Arkestra’s take on a Nino Rota score. It becomes more airy as it goes, leaving the trio to play the spaces as much as the instruments.
A surprising coda appears with Nace punching in some reverb and strumming an open chord, followed by Genta on bombarda. Then the finish: Nace playing percussive figures on the treated guitar, while Genta’s figures spiral above and Vanzan’s mallets swagger until resolution – which sounds to these ears like the attainment of intuitive nirvana.