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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Barry Guy / Maya Homburger / Zlatko Kaučič - Without Borders... (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2017) *****

Without Borders... was inspired by a humble hope to rectify an urgent worldly problem - the plight of displaced refugees making their agonizingly slow walk to a more hopeful future. This title also represent beautifully the essence of this meeting between master double bass player Barry Guy, baroque violinist (and Guy’s partner) Maya Homburger, and Slovenian drummer percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, a meeting that dissolves the borders between contemporary composition and improvisation, between free-improvisation and real-time composition.

Kaučič invited Guy and Homburger to perform in Ljubljana on March 2016. The three musicians found out immediately that they shared many interests and concerns, and not only musical ones. Kaučič told Guy and Homburger that he lives close to one of the “corridors” where refugees cross on their way to Northern Europe. Soon, Guy, Homburger, and Kaučič decided to share the resonance of their awareness with the essential relief work of international agencies “whilst many politicians turn their back on the problems”. This album was Inspired also by a poem of Herman Melville - which is also used as a text for Steve Lacy’s “Art”, interpreted here: “In placid hours, well pleased we dream of many a brave unbodied scheme”.

The program is divided between re-arrangements of Guy compositions and free improvisations. The brief and intense “Shadow Fragment” and the extended “The Seeker and the Search”, originally pieces for violin and bass written for a project of New York-based artist Elana Gutmann, capture the unsettling atmosphere of this album. The three musicians shift constantly between a tense, dramatic interplay to a moving, compassionate chamber one. Kaučič improvised percussive work with Homburger interpretation of “Celebration”, originally composed for a solo violin, charges it with disruptive urgency. Kaučič joins Guy for another interpretation, “Peace Piece”, one of Guy’s most beautiful compositions, originally written for a solo bass. Here his contribution is more economic, adding subtle colors to the gentle, lyrical motifs of this composition.

The four “Footfalls” improvisations of Guy and Kaučič suggest even further the chaotic, intense inner turmoil experienced by the refugees. These improvisations correspond somehow with Samuel Beckett play by the same name, featuring an aged pacing woman in tattered nightwear dramatizing deterioration over four parts, each separated by chimes which grow fainter in each sounding. Kaučič idiosyncratic sonic palette, based on his unique instrumentation- ground drums, home-made instruments and zither - fits perfectly with the imaginative vocabulary of Guy and his original sense of invention. There are times when both sound as lost in each other’s restless, dramatic sonic universe - especially on the last, the, more reserved and cinematic “Footfalls IV”. Both become a newer, unified sonic entity that can expand or elaborate on any idea in an instant, transforming it to an altogether different motif.

The last piece, the cover of Lacy’s “Art” (from his album Momentum, 1987) does justice to this wonderful composition. “Art” offers music in its highest form and performance, arresting and provocative, even without Melville inspiring poem recited by Irene Aebi, “music to open up thoughts” as Guy suggests in his insightful liner notes.


FreeJazz Jeff said...

Difficult but ultimately rewarding listening.