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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Jeb Bishop and Dan Ruccia - Scratch Slice Jag (Out & Gone Music, 2017) ****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Behind the pop and dub structures of P.I.L’s music laid a great amount of truth and irony. Just before John Lydon managed to make a mockery of himself – both as an artist and a human being – for good, they released “This Is Not A Love Song”. This was a song about the willingness of the listener-consumer to demand more from the music industry and its workers-artists. Full of distrust towards them, it declared: it’s you who want less.

It seems to me that the same applies today, even in an era that the freedom brought by the internet has democratized the way we listen and, most importantly, the way we choose to listen. The possibilities are numerous (but not endless of course) when you can find everything on line just by googling.

Behind all of this there lies the will and belief of many artists, that they can self-manage the outcome of their work and that this outcome deserves a listen. Now Out &Gone records comes into the picture. With a small but very diversified catalogue of recordings this is another honest excursion into the unknown territories of improvisational music, Out & Gone releases are surely worth a try and repeated listening.

The same applies for Scratch Slice Jag from the duo of trombonist Jed Bishop and violist Dan Ruccia. This is an unusual pairing when it comes to instrumentation, so – at least in my eyes – by definition adventurous. By using a variety of artistic means such as extended techniques on their instruments and improvisational gestures, they achieve two goals: they manipulate the listener into a journey that starts from European improvisation and ends into classical musical tradition, and vice versa.

What most intrigued me listening to Scratch Slice Jag was that both happened at the same time. I see this as a blessing for a recording. Music – art in general – does not emerge out of the blue like a parthenogenesis. Especially for an instrument like the viola which carries the burden of a long tradition behind it. It’s quite exhilarating and refreshing that it gets a new treatment by producing new sounds. Do not get me wrong here, as someone with zero musical studies, my aim is to express the inexpressible in music: energy, pathos, sounds that stimulate reactions in the mind and the heart of the listener. Not notes.

The interaction of the two musicians is amazing. They have been playing together for a while, during Bishop’s stay in the same town as Ruccia. Ok, while it’s always good to travel the world (but not very eco-friendly indeed), meet people and play with new partners, nothing compares to the good old tradition of performing steadily with a number of people. It can produce results such as this recording. A unison that amazingly but not unexpectedly comes from two wholly different instruments.

The tracks themselves do not in any way follow a certain path. The noisy outbursts are quite a few and scattered throughout the CD. It seems that both of them play attached to their feelings, not operating in a pre-determined plan. They let the compositions lead them. At the same time no one is leading, they go hand in hand. I did not expect that two so diversified instruments would produce such a fresh and full of adventure album. Off course, it’s the artist that makes it happen. Prepare to be surprised as I did.