Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore – A Calculus of Loss (CF 104)
Se si eccettua “That’s Not a Closet“, brano strutturato, riconoscibile, identificabile con alcuni canonici estetici della musica afroamericana, A Calculus of Loss si può considerare una sorta di work in progress su sculture sonore. Perché le improvvisazioni del trio sono sfuggenti, deformate e deformabili, in perpetua ed istantanea evoluzione.
Sono sufficienti un fremito percussivo, una vibrazione d’ancia, un inflessione del violoncello per alterare la percezione di una musica che sembra assorbire energia dallo spazio circostante e dare risalto ai vuoti, ai buchi neri dell’improvvisazione.
Proveniente dalla ricca scena di Chicago e componente dei Bridge61 di Ken Vandermark, Jason Stein è uno dei pochi musicisti in circolazione che si dedica esclusivamente al clarinetto basso. Se il riferimento scontato non può che essere il grande Dolphy, Stein è troppo intelligente per cercare di diventarne l’ennesimo epigono. Si inventa, così, uno stile del tutto personale, nel quale il clarinetto basso perde i suoi connotati di strumento rigido e poco malleabile, non tanto a favore di una virtuosistica agilità quanto per trasformarsi in sofisticato esploratore timbrico, efficace grimaldello per scardinare intricati lucchetti sonori.
Con The Calculus of Loss, Jason Stein licenzia un album di debutto coraggioso, anticonvenzionale, colto, di sorprendente maturità, che ne rivela anche le qualità di interessante compositore.
Joelle Leandre / Pascal Contet – Freeway (CF 080)
There’s one thing that, perhaps above all else, sets Joélle Leandre apart from the pack. True she’s a fantastically talented bassist. She has a huge singing voice that is a high point of most of her performances. She’s a smart composer and a sympathetic improviser. But the thing that makes any record on which she appears so distinctive is the fact that she almost always has a bow in her hand. One could speculate, to perhaps irrelevant results—her playing is more feminine, more European—and it may just be her extensive classical training, but the reasons aren’t really the issue. The point is that she’s just not one to slap out a blues progression. She has a big, strong, basement-flooding sound.
As with the Norton duo, it’s easy to forget just what instruments are being played on Freeway, Leandre’s duo with accordionist Pascal Contet. Contet enjoys the low, reedy tones of the accordion, sometimes pushing Leandre up in the midrange and making the record sound like a bass clarinet/cello duo. And the accordion’s lung capacity pushes Leandre into pizzicato more often than usual for her. Their 1994 duet remains one of the most satisfying in Leandre’s huge discography, if one of the more difficult to track down and the new one is every bit as good. The ability of both instruments to move quickly over a huge range of tones and the inclination of both players to make full use of their instruments make for a satisfying, unpredictable album.
Luís Lopes – Humanization Quartet (CF 105)
Another treasure trove of music is to be found in Clean Feed recording artist Luis Lopes. The guitarist’s first recording even surprised label chief Pedro Costa as he artfully explains in the liner notes. Who knew? Like so many of Clean Feed’s discs, American listeners discover new sounds and new musicians with nearly every release. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the early exploration into jazz. Instead of Miles and Coltrane leading to Hank Mobley and Johnny Coles, listeners can now discover superb Portuguese and European players. Such is the case with the self-described Humanization 4tet.
A blindfold test might place this music somewhere inside today’s Chicago sound. Lopes’ writing and his quartet could almost be mistaken for a Jeff Parker-meets-Ken Vandermark, as the tenor saxophone/guitar interaction of Rodrigo Amado and Lopes orients you into the free/composed styles heard in the windy city of jazz. The opening “Cristadingo” verifies this with a muscular workout, Amado blowing heavy notes over Lopes’ sinewy playing. The saxophonist has been gaining quite a reputation for his work in the Lisbon Improvisation Players and with players like Ken Filiano, Steve Swell, Joe Giardullo and Paal Nilssen-Love.
Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez, the bass and drums playing sons of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, back up the front line. Up to the task at hand, they drive “Paso,” an open-form tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini, from their introduction, a kind of marching ball of energy that gives way to the tentative saxophone and very outer-space tunings of Lopes as he dials in foreign frequencies.
Elsewhere the guitar/sax unison walk is utilized as an introduction to “Principio de Incertesza,” before the four open the song for a wandering bit of freedom. “Long March” features an extended bass opening into a measured procession, Lopes ringing simple notes from his guitar as the piece builds into a simmering stew. The final track “4 Small Steps” bites into a bit more aggressive take on rock meets jazz.