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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Schizo Quartet - Don't Answer It (Loose Torque, 2008) ****½

The Schizo Quartet is Jon Corbett on trumpet and Nick Stephens on bass. Yes, a quartet consisting of two musicians. Hence the "schizo". Corbett and Stephens have a long musical history together, going back to the late 70s when they were both member of John Stevens' "Away". What you hear on the nine tracks on this album, is a conversation between two friends, without purpose or direction, telling each other stories in their own musical language, reacting and commenting upon the other one's ideas. These two artists have nothing to prove anymore, and that is probably one of the main strengths of this album. The conversations they have are insteresting ones to follow, at times fluent, then halting, or calm or agitated, sometimes the two come to an agreement and find each other in the same tonal region, knodding heavily as they reach a common understanding in staccato blasts with nervously plucked bass or in slow horn tones accompanied by soft arco bass. On the title track, you can hear a phone ring after about 4 minutes, hence the title : "Don't Answer It", with the underlying idea : "what we are doing here is much more important/fun than anything else that might disturb us". And rightly so.

The two musicians exploit all their instrumental skills, with all the different shadings and tones that they can create. "In Vino Veritas" gives a nice example of this, Corbett's double-toned trumpet-playing, half-muted and open, is echoed by Stephens' alternating plucking and bowing, and what you hear, surprisingly, comes close to the sound you expect to hear from a quartet.

This music has no structure, no purpose, other than the joy of playing these notes together, in its most minimalistic and pleasurable context, act and react, incite and create. It is full of expectations and little surprises at what might come next, listening intently. It is not angry. It doesn't want to shock, or even break boundaries. It has no further aspirations. It just is. It is open. It is totally free. It just is. And it sounds great too.

Listen to
Loose Talk
Smoking Room

Order from Loose Torque.