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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alexey Kruglov - Russian Metaphor (Leo Records, 2010) ****½

"Russian Metaphor" is Russian saxophonist Alexey Kruglov's second CD as a leader and it is something quite unique. The album consists of five pieces that are structured themselves into many different parts, often short, yet flowing seamlessly into each other, with Oleg Udanov on drums and percussion, and Igor Ivanushkin on bass.

The rhythm section by itself is quite adventurous, but in a very traditional sense: they play rhythmically, sometimes on purpose without a real beat, with "torn rhythms", as Kruglov describes it, very subtle.

The big changes occur when the leader himself picks up new instruments every few minutes: soprano, alto, tenor and bariton saxes, clarinet, bassett-horn, flutes, bassoon, toy trumpet, trombone, oboe, piano; or playing various saxes at the same time (as in "Seal Of Time"), or playing tenor with a trombone mouthpiece (as in "Extracts").

Despite the constant switching of instruments and the changing rhythms, the music is incredibly coherent. Kruglov's playing is joyful, intrinsically lyrical and melodic, sensitive and expressive.

On the long "Striving For Generations", he uses overdubs and electronic delays, with piano touches left and right, adding some drama and gravitas to the sound of the previous pieces, expressing the raw life of the Russians living in the north of the country, alternated by beautiful melodies and some heart-rending blowing.

It is also extremely free of mind, with no distinctive patterns, harmonies or repeated phrases, but the trio manages to create a specific character for each piece, that shows a different shade or perspective on the same vision : free spontaneous playing, with folk and jazz elements, with an almost organic and spiritual feeling. And no pretense whatsoever, quite to the contrary, these guys have great fun doing what they're doing without any need to impress audiences.

And it is all basically one piece of music, a long suite, a story. 

Great stuff.

© stef