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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Susan Alcorn/Chris Corsano/ Bill Nace – Live at Rotunda (Open Mouth 59/Live at #6) ****

By Phil Stringer

To begin with my conclusion: I think this is a stunning recording, which merits repeated listening. Actually, it requires repeated listening to reveal the patterns that unfold and the textures that Susan Alcorn (pedal steel guitar), Bill Nace (guitar) and Chris Corsano (drums) develop in an energetic interplay. So far as I know, this is the first time that these three have performed together, on September 5, 2018, at Rotunda, Philadelphia. It sounds, though, as if they have frequently played together and of course, all are familiar to readers of The Free Jazz Collective. I imagine the Rotunda is a conducive environment for musicians; at least, it seem to me that the venue has made its own textural contribution.

The first few times I listened to this (the vinyl version), I realised that I was playing it too quietly. I’m not suggesting that it should be turned up to 11 (one could try) but it certainly benefits from a good turn of the dial. It start with what I can best describe as shimmer of sound announcing the three musicians who immediately establish themselves in unison: reacting, challenging, cooperating. The opening rolls into a blizzard of sound that simultaneously evokes a cognitive and a visceral response. The pattern of music that emerges is like the weather outside just now: sunshine, giving way to darkening skies and then a heavy downpour. Just when it seems the rain cannot get any heavier, the music calms to reveal the distinctive elements that each contribute. There is no recording information to indicate whether this is the whole concert or if it has been edited, In any event, side two seamlessly continues the pattern. There is a relatively lengthy passage of calm with Alcorn shimmering away then turning to staccato passages, like a beacon through the gathering rain. Corsano maintains a steady presence with Nace contributing an incessant low vibration that builds and swirls. And then, the rain arrives, the tempo and volume increases. No musician gets lost or over dominates, unless it’s in service of the music. Finally, the music ebbs again into a remarkably rhythmic finale of stutters, pedal steel melody and percussive wash. Calm arrives. We are dry and happy.


Dom Minasi said...

Susan Alcorn is truly in a class by herself. Anything she does is remarkable.
Great review. Thanks for posting

Anonymous said...

this is another solid outing from Open Mouth. One could do much worse than using the activities of Nace &/or Corsano to chart lesser explored realms