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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sax and bass

Ha! Duets! I love them. I love the intimacy of the dialogue, the limitless possibilities unfolding, with the big danger of losing focus of the music itself, or of moving in all directions without keeping coherence. In the hands of true masters, works of art are created, leading to captivating listening experiences, requiring some concentration and effort from the listener, but that's a small price to pay to become part of this music.

Vinny Golia & Mark Dresser - Live At Lotus (Kadima, 2010) ****

Interestingly enough, Kadima released this excellent recording close to nine years after it was recorded. The artists are Vinny Golia on woodwinds and Mark Dresser on bass. On the first piece Golia sticks to flute, switching to sax on the second, and the change is apparent, both in the quality of the recording as on his presence, which sounds more dedicated and committed to what he is playing. Maybe comfort, maybe inspiration.

I recently reviewed some of Dresser's bass skills, and I have always appreciated Golia for his free lyricism, without fully  relinquishing the jazz tradition, even with blues undertones in the overall mood.

The second piece, "Can There Be Two", brings an exploration of a set theme, and explore they do, ranging from forceful blasts, to multiphonics and sensitive touches, using trills as on a flute, deep soulful moments, and even some Middle-Eastern excursions, without loosing the thread of the theme, and all this in perfect dialogue with the bass.

"Excursions" starts in the lower registers, with Dresser setting the tone, and Golia answering on bass clarinet, starting quite abstract, but gradually picking up a wayward boppish rhythm, and adding fluency to the phrasing, first while maintaining a minimum level of abstraction, then turning the piece into delightful free bop, only to reduce the speed again to more intimate conversations, ending in a bluesy one-note beat, like coming home.

"Locution", the last piece, is the album's highlight, with Dresser using his bow to play some heartrending and sometimes piercing sounds in an overall dark and ominous environment, with Golia's multiphonics increase the tension.

Two magicians conjuring up worlds in front of your ears.

Remi Álvarez & Mark Dresser - Soul to Soul (Discos Intolerantia, 2010) ****

We find Dresser back with Mexican saxophonist Remi Álvarez, a one-time student with the likes of Braxton, George Lewis and Steve Lacy, not bad references if you ask me, yet he clearly has his own voice and musical ideas.

The first piece is relatively abstract and even meditative, until Dresser seems to think it needs some deep emotional dive by elucidating some screaming bowing out of his bass, pushing the sax into wilder territories. The second piece starts uptempo with both instruments setting up a very nervous dialogue, with changing rhythms and pulse, short phrases and quite some intensity.This just to illustrate the broad range of approaches going from the lyrical extended phrases over rhythmic backbones to weird sonic interactions, but keeping the dialogue open at all times, with focus on the music as it unfolds itself almost naturally.

The seven improvisations on the album range from short statements of less than three minutes to lengthy dialogues of fifteen minutes, and they're good at both.

The great similarity between both albums is the incredibly coherent sense of adventure and technical skills that allow them to do what they do : make great free music with incredible warmth and passion.

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

© stef


Michael Campbell said...

Just saw Remi Alvarez at the 'Acuerdo de Musica Libre' here in Houston, a summit of Mexican and Texan free musicians. I had no idea he had connections to Braxton, Lewis and Lacy.

Dom Minasi said...

This is a great record.Remi gave me a copy last summer when he was here in NY. I play it all the the time