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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Double Duo - Crossword Puzzle (Libra, 2007) ****

Not so long ago I said that there weren't that many quartets with a double trumpet front line, well, here's another one, and even more unusual, because there are two pianos as well, which explains the name of the band. Dutch free improvizers Angelo Verploegen en Misha Mengelberg on trumpet and piano invite Japanese master duo Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii on the same instruments, for two long free improvizations, recorded live at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam. The first piece starts with an evocation of the sounds of nature, random notes like birds, with short melodyless counterpoints, joyous, sad, serious, plaintive, ... The overall approach is pointillistic, painting notes on a white canvas, randomly at first, until new spaces are created with lots of room for the others to join, to add their thing, to withdraw and leave room again for the other artist. The result is interesting, because you rarely hear the four musicians at the same time, creating something more like scrabble than a crosswords puzzle, where each players awaits his turn to add letters on what the other one put on the board. Unlike many other free improv, the music is never "in your face", but is rather unobtrusive, with quiet and subdued moments, altered with intense staccato crescendos, but never chaotic, with a little more impressionistic approach by Tamura and Fujii, the Dutch musicians sounding somewhat harder. There are several really creative moments, such as when piano and trumpets produce phrases ending with a question mark, hesitantly moving up the scale with a somewhat sustained end-note, as if full of surprise and astonishment at what the other musicians brought forward. Tamura is the only one creating something close to a (march-like) melody after some twenty minutes in the first piece, over some total frenzy by the pianos and Verploegen's echoing sounds, which suddenly stop for some voiceless trumpet-whispers by the Dutch trumpeter, as a start for the outro of the piece. The audience seems too perplexed at first to applaud and does so hesitantly and politely. The second piece is less abstract with a steady piano figure, eery and intense, with an anguished trumpet evolving to a shout-like repetition. The great strength of the double duo is that they manage to create a coherent approach to their own aesthetic, with lots of openness and creative interplay. Not easy listening, but rewarding.