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Friday, January 24, 2014

2° Ètage: Grey Matter (NoBusiness, 2013) ****

By Martin Schray

Although the title of this album refers to a major component of the central nervous system consisting of neuronal cell bodies and therefore something which belongs to the human body, listening to it makes me think of something completely different. I imagine myself standing on a large ascending meadow, I am contemplating the little flowers, the bees, the flies and the bugs, it is a world of its own, joyous and frolic. In a musical way, this is what the beginning of “Echappée belle”, the first track, is like. Jean-Luc Cappozzo (tp) starts with a Nate-Wooley-like approach, it’s an excursion in breath and extended techniques, it sounds as if there were two trumpets. Gerry Hemingway (dr) joins him but does not deliver a pulse, the drums are another solo instrument. But then I feel that there is something wrong, there is a rumbling and mumbling, as if the earth was slightly quaking; the meadow is rising at the opposite end, there is a slow but threatening debris avalanche coming towards me, it’s shape is shifting, as if it was alive. Christine Wodrascka (p), who has been the one holding the piece together with her prepared piano, has started delivering dark, gloomy and muffled low-key chords, Cappozzo plays shrill notes which are hardly recognizable as trumpet sounds and Hemingway concentrates on his toms. I look at and listen to this wonder of nature in a puzzled way because I don’t know what will happen next.

As to structure there are similar tracks like “Ghost Train” featuring Wodrascka bowing the strings of the interior of the piano while Cappozzo  has turned to regular sounds and nervous runs; or “Rivulet” which presents an alternative ending: the trumpet plays a beautiful harmonic melody here.

Other highlights are short pieces like “Possession” with its disharmonic piano chords, its coughing and its belling or “Tanz Ende” (German for: The End of the Dance), which features Wodrascka and Hemingway throwing in sparse sounds, while Cappozzo is hardly audible - it sounds as if parts of what they play are cut out (especially Wodrascka’s part) -  it is a sketch, an outline, a draft. It really seems as if the album was in its final throes before all of a sudden it turns in a mad, but funny simple waltz, which is immediately alienated.

All the music is improvised by these experienced musicians and especially Christine Wodrascka, who says that she likes to look for unique and authentic moments in music and who seems to be a bit underrepresented  (at least on our blog) although she has played with a lot of the best European improvisers like Joëlle Léandre, Paul Lovens or Fred VanHove, is simply outstanding. Her style meanders between Alex von Schlippenbach, new classical music, sound explorations and even Cecil Taylor (“Up Down“). She is worth a deeper dig.

The album was recorded live in Le Carré Bleu, Poitiers, France on October 18th 2012.

Grey Matter” is available on CD, you can buy it from