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Friday, November 5, 2021

Kimmel/Ali/Harris – Vivary (Amalgam, 2021) ***½

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Amalgam, started by percussionist Bill Harris (who also recorded a fine solo album in 2021, also on Amalgam), is slowly building a dynamic and well informed, of the cutting edge sounds in contemporary free improvisation, discography. Nowadays I tend to trust more labels, when it comes to listening to new recordings, than I did in the past. Amalgam has certainly become one of them.

This trio, recorded in the pandemic era, consists of Harris on percussion and microkorg, Jeff Kimmel on clarinet and electronics and Ishmael Ali on cello, guitar and electronics. If there should be one word that would describe Vivary, that would have been exploration. Exploration mostly in altering the sound and timbre of their respected instruments. As we read in the liner notes of the cd, all three musicians agree that Vivary is a blend of electronics and acoustic instruments. If I had to add something to all this, it ‘d be that you get the feeling that there of a lot of ideas that go into their minds. Ideas that, maybe, need more time and space to culminate and enjoy the fruits.

I really enjoyed their small scale experiments. I think Vivary is more successful when the acoustic sounds come on the foreground and the electronics are less audible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully committed, as a listener, to understand where a musician wants to go. To follow another, more risky path maybe. But I felt that sometimes, some of the ideas in Vivary are under developed. There are small electronic experiments (like the three small vignettes, Vespiary I, II and III) where what is happening isn’t working for me.

On the other hand when they get into full improvisational mood, using the acoustic qualities of their instruments, it’s when Vivary is in full swing. Since they have worked together before, their interplay is amazing, following a collective ethos. It is then when Vivary succeeds the most, incorporating all the elements that, feels like, the electronics are pushing on the background.

If you want to listen and buy the album, go here: