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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Marilyn Lerner, Ken Filliano, Lou Grassi - Live At Edgefest (NoBusiness, 2016) ***½

By JA Besche

Michigan has its own version of SXSW (i.e. a large music festival that takes place throughout a city with musicians playing in various venues around town as opposed to one large fairground), however, there are no insufferable scensters or oddly trendy new forms of electronic music like vaporwave, chillwave, or wavewave (I invented this genre just now). No, all there is at Edgefest are some of the best talents of free jazz and improv laying waste to Ann Arbor. Last year, Lerner, Filliano, and Grassi spoke their collective voice into the Michigan air, and it was luckily captured and imprinted onto vinyl wax thanks to the superb Lithuanian label NoBusiness. Here’s how it went down:

Quiet glissandos tip toe down a rigid set of keys, the light saw of a bowed double bass quickly scatters repeated phrases over top, while the tips of drumsticks dance between snares and hi-hats, touching them with what seem like precisely only the exact amount of force necessary. The instruments come together and take us strutting, with an obtuse delivery of piano notes walking over top of the rhythm in disjointed timing. Three rhythm instruments working as a collective propel the improvisation forward; all skip from percussive to melodic with a collectivist approach. The ringing echo of quickly played cymbal notes drift off and dissipate into the air like smoke before a solo of glissandos interspersed with playful blocks of chords takes the lead. The snare begins rumbling in the background, a tautly pulled drum skin emitting the expertly tapped vibrations that intermingle with the determined and manic-depressive piano. The bow cuts jagged lines across the bass strings, but it is not frayed, only precise. The hood of the piano has been drawn back and its guts are stroked, coaxing pure percussion as the bass flows back and forth between registers. They call. They respond. They push forward in exploring volume and intensity. Silence becomes the fourth member of the band. Improvisations grow and shrink from each other. A well taken drum solo of swirling patterns and ringing hi-hats leads to a whirlpool of notes between the trio, the bass and piano playing being the most nimble of the recording, exchanging rapid fire runs at each other like two armies in a gunfight. Moody piano runs bookend some grooving bass vamps and rolling snares. It becomes an incantation, repeating the calls of worship until it fades out. The audience introduces itself.


Colin Green said...

I thought this was a very impressive album.

Martin Schray said...

I also think that this is a great album, full of excellent musicianship and lots of different ideas where to go to with the music. The whole set was very well structured, too. Filliano and Grassi are a superb rhythm section. In my opinion definitely worth more than ***½ stars.

Colin Green said...

In a sense, all three are the rhythm section, or none are, depending on how you want to look at it.