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Thursday, September 7, 2023

Sax & Drums

 By Stef Gijssels

This year, we already reviewed two sax & drums duos: "Sounds, Songs & Other Noises" by Günter Baby Sommer and Raymond MacDonald, Žepi/Pockets by Zlatko Kaučič and Boštjan Simon, so it's time for an update. In the meantime, also Ken Vandermark and Paul Lytton were reviewed for their "Distant Cousins" (it may take a long time between the start of a review such as this one, and its actual publication). 

Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey - Counterfeit Mars (Relative Pitch Records, 2022)

This album has been lying here for far too long to be reviewed. Laubrock and Rainey are life partners, and have performed possibly zillions of times together in a whole variety of ensembles and contexts. As a consequence, it does not surprise that they feel each other naturally, organically, moving as one through these thirteen improvisations. Their other duo albums are "And Other Desert Towns" (2014) "Buoyancy" (2016), "Utter" (2018), "Stir Crazy" (2020), all reviewed by us, and all welcomed for their high quality performance. 

The same can be said of this album. Laubrock is a musician with great ideas, and a wide array of techniques and skills that she uses to go deep into the soul of music, and with high sensitivity. Rainey's skills are comparable, and also with high sensitivity. All pieces are little miniatures and have their own distinct character and mood, varying from the more energetic "Andy's Eyes" to the beautiful and calm "Swathed In Darkness". 

Laubrock's sax sings, weeps, howls, jubilates and dances, and Rainey's drums sings, weeps, howls, jubilates and dances. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Colin Webster & Andrew Lisle - Spontaneous Live Series D04 (Spontaneous Music Tribune, 2023)

It is raw, ferocious, brutal, without being violent or aggressive. It has the kind of authentic unpolished depth, deeply emotional and abrasive tone, combined with a relentless drive and energy. 

Colin Webster is on alto, Andrew Lisle on drums. There is no place for rational descriptions, or further comment. This is straight from the heart and straight to the heart. 

It is short - only thirty minutes long on three tracks - but every second is enjoyable. 

Go for it!

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Rob Brown & Juan Pablo Carletti - Fertile Garden (NoBusiness, 2022)

Both altoist Rob Brown as drummer Juan Pablo Carletti are mainstays of the New York jazz scene, performing in many ensembles, with artists such as Matthew Shipp, Cooper-Moore, William Parker. 

Brown is also a natural lyricist, a creative and inventive improviser. The first track lasts over half an hour, and the second over twenty-three minutes, indeed very lengthy pieces, but luckily both musicians manage to keep our attention throughout. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Tomek Sowiński & Maciej Sikała - Amalgamation (Alpaka, 2023)

The duo consists of Tomek Sowiński on drums and percussion, and Maciej Sikała on tenor & soprano saxophones. The music is gentle, welcoming, and warm. No fireworks as on some of the other albums reviewed here, and neither advanced explorations, but the technical quality of both musicians is excellent. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Calle Neumann & Paal Nilssen-Love - Live At Kafé Hærverk (Catalytic, 2023)

Recorded live at Kafe Hærverk in Oslo, Norway in July 2021, this album brings us Calle Neumann on alto, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. The music is fully improvised, not recorded with the best sound quality, but the energy and authenticity of the interaction is such that this does not really matter. In between bouts of heavy and raw power duets, Neumann also gives us many moments of gentle, safe and warm lyricism. 

Colin Fisher & Mike Gennaro - Tactile Stories (Cacophonous Revival Recordings, 2022)

Canadians Colin Fisher and Mike Gennaro first started playing as a duo in 2014, in which year they also released their first album "Sine Qua Non". This is their second duo album, with Fisher on sax on three tracks, and on guitar on the last piece. Gennaro plays drums throughout the four lengthy improvisations. The recording quality is excellent, as is the playing by both musicians: fierce, strong dynamics, raw energy. The kind of sound we like!

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Mark Hanslip & Andrew Cheetham - String And Grid (Discus, 2022)

Recorded in 2017, this duo between British tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip and drummer Andrew Cheetham is also worth mentioning. We reviewed some earlier work of Hanslip, with Olie Bryce, Paul Dunmall or with "Outhouse", and Cheetham for his duo recording with Alan Wilkinson. 

Hanslip has the incredible skill of maintaining a very warm tone while at the same time with lots of intensity, whether in fast staccato bouts or more lyrical passages. Cheetham also has the same versatility of combining gentleness with high speed, resulting in an album that is both very energetic and welcoming at the same time. Neither Hanslip or Cheetham have a very extensive discography, so it's great that this performance saw the light of day. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Christian Bucher & Rick Countryman - The Force Of Gravity  (FMR, 2023)

"The Force Of Gravity" is a collaboration between Swiss drummer Christian Bucher and American altoist Rick Countryman. They have an extensive track record of collaborating, and I even think they perform together on the majority of both artists' albums. The recent list, sometimes in the company of bassist Simon Tan, is "Acceptance - Resistance" (2016), "Estuary" (2018), "Tributary" (2018), "Extremely Live In Manila" (2018), "Empathy" (2019), "Blue Spontaneity" (2020), "Once" (2022), "The Malaysa Live Fact Session" (2022), "Sacred Fire Of The Free", "Old Drains, New Stains" (2023). 

They bring us thirteen relatively short improvisations, stylistically closer to free improv than free jazz, with quite intense interactions, and even if it's not always clear to hear the distinction between the tracks in terms of approach or musical vision, it is fun listening to. As the art work suggests, they take us along on a long journey through outer space. Fasten your seatbelts!

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Ilia Belorukov & Gabriel Ferrandini - Sculptor (Tripticks Tapes, 2023)

This is the second duo album by Ilia Belorukov on alto sax and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums, after their "Disquiet" from 2019. Belorukov is not a powerplayer, but a timbral explorer, very much in the free improv mode, playing in the moment, and Ferrandini is a good match for him here. The music is angular, frenetic, intense, with a strong emphasis on what's happening 'now', with some unexpected twists and turns, but not really with a purpose of developing. It's more about the journey itself than about having an idea of where to end. 

The album is not long - it's actually a cassette tape - and clocks a little over thirty minutes. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Greg Sher & Dylan Van Der Schyff - You Sing The Song (Self-Released, 2023)

Saxophonist Greg Sher was not familiar to me, possibly because he resides and performs in Australia. He performs two long duets with Canadian percussionist Dylan van der Schyff. The latter has a long state of play, including collaborations with Wayne Horvitz, Joëlle Léandre, John Butcher, Paul Rutherford. 

The two tracks were released as they were performed, without alteration. The interaction between both musicians works well. The result is intimate, melodious, lyrical, gentle and elegant. A more than welcome change in this harsh world. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Luis Erades & Avelino Saavedra - La Inmunda Vida De San Gulik (Discordian, 2023)

Both Luis Erades on alto and Avelino Saavedra on drums, objects and megaphone have been long time artists and performers but with a relatively limited output as far as albums go. 

I am not sure about the link between the Discordian label and the Discordian 'religion/philosophy', but it's on the website of the latter that I found who San Gulik in the title refers to: "This is Saint Gulik. He is the Messenger of the Goddess. A different age from ours called him ``Hermes.'' Many people called him by many names. He is a roach. Actually, the amazing thing about Saint Gulik is that he's really all roaches". Needless to say they don't take themselves too seriously, and we've had great fun listening to the label's albums, and to this one of two musicians we did not know. 

Erades and Saavedra treat us to raw and powerful free jazz interactions (as in the title track), interlaced with slower pieces (for instance "Falso Cadáver") in which they explore the sounds of their instruments, testing their timbral possibilities as well as the ears of the listeners. In general it's fun and interesting, and worth listening to, but not boundary-breaking. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Mars Williams & Vasco Trilla - Critical Mass (Not Two Records, 2023)

Recorded in Barcelona, "Critical Mass" brings us five duets between Mars Williams on reeds and toy instruments, and Vasco Trilla on drums and percussion. This is their second duo album, after "Spiracle" from 2020. 

The first track is another rendition of a composition that already figured on Trilla's solo album from earlier this year, "A Constellation of Anomaly" (LINK), called "The Shaking Hand That Leaves A Mark", yet here it gradually moves from a meditative, subdued piece to a more extrovert and energetic mood. 

The second track Williams plays an undefined reed instrument, high-pitched with a squeezed tone like a Moroccan Rhaita or something similar, before switching to sax. Trilla's percussion is also more tribal, a kind of rumble in support of the increasing frenzy of Williams's playing. After this high energy exuberance, we get two more subdued tracks, with a more defining role of the percussion on "Thin Air". The last track has the opposite structure of the first track, starting with ferocious playing yet gradually diminishing volume, speed and power, closing the circle into the meditative atmosphere of the beginning. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Paul Lytton & Ken Vandermark - Distant Cousins (Audiographic Records, 2023)

"Distant Cousins" brings us one long 35 minute improvisation between British free improv giant Paul Lytton and Chicago sax luminary Ken Vandermark, here on tenor & baritone saxophone, and Bb clarinet. The music moves through different energy levels and moods, from wild ferocious moments, to subdued dialogues full of tentative outreaches, yet always intense, as you could expect. Lytton keeps his free improv style drumming, while at times the rhythmic elements come from Vandermark in his usual style. Despite their differences they find common ground throughout the piece. 

Die-hard fans will seek the limited vinyl edition, but the music is also available digitally. 

In the meantime also reviewed here by Paul Acquaro. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Trombe - Cheval Rodéo (STNT, 2022) & Déluge (STNT, 2023)

"Trombe" is the duo of Thomas Beaudelin on sax and Erwan Cornic on drums. On their sophomore album "Cheval Rodéo" they give all the titles of their energetic and raw interaction topics related to rodeo: "Bareback and saddle bronco", "Tie-down roping ", "Bull-riding", "Rescue Race" and "Barrel race". They demonstrate their skills in evocating the taming of wildness, and the high risk ferocity of the 'game', even if some tracks, such as "Terrassement du Bouvillon" are surprisingly intimate and gentle. Both musicians take their art seriously, but clearly not themselves. 

Thomas Beaudelin is classically trained (and a builder of wind instruments), but his playing here is everything except classical. Erwan Cornic has been a drummer for several decades, and even if his number of albums is limited, his drumming is excellent, both rhythmically and in timbral explorations. 

Their third album, "Déluge" takes their art a step further in the same vein: high power play, but smart, with  both musicians delivering ear candy technically while at the same time offering a lot of improvisational variation within each track, offering excellent ciaroscuros between dark and violent moments alternated with more intimate sensitive passages. 

I did not know both artists, but they're more than worth to be discovered. Both albums also have print copies: the former on 200 copies, the latter on 100, but they're luckily also available digitally. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp