There isn’t so much to say about the reeds-percussion duo that hasn’t been said or written in the past and present. Personally, I’m always thrilled when I encounter such duos, like on this cd, that, while taking the Interstellar Space tradition as a starting point, use the interaction between the two musicians as a vehicle to go a bit further.
Sbatax, the second release as a duo of Bertrand Denzler and Antonin Gerbal on Umlaut (after Heretofore from 2015), finds them (Denzler on tenor sax, Gerbal on the drums) in fine form exploring their stamina while releasing amazing amounts of energy throughout the thirty eight minutes of one long continuous track.
As they have proven in Heretofore, they are both capable of transcending all limitations their bodies or their instruments impose on them. Sbatax is certainly a free jazz recording. But the language they choose to present on this cd is not a fixed form, but an open one. Open to new dynamic interpretations of the saxophone’s timbre, experimentations of the possibilities of the drums in all its percussive range (should I say rage?) while attending one another’s thoughts and ideas of how to proceed.
You need to listen to Sbatax continuously (in the beginning I was concerned about the fact that there were no intervals on the cd), to understand how the music grows and ascends (to put it in a Coltraneish way of non linear thought) into an entity of its own. There is no need for intervals or skips, so you can move ahead and realize what’s there to listen. Near the end of the cd you, the listener, should feel the exhaustion of this continuous recording, the strength and energy needed for this to resume in full form and honesty. The pathos that music like this –like real free jazz out of the mannerism- brings to your heart.
Quoting John Coltrane, or maybe paraphrasing him, Denzler and Gerbal have really gone into the crux of things with Sbatax. Dig in.
See Nick Metzger's review of Sbatax.