Photo by Rodrigo Amado
November 25th – Apolo, Barcelona, Spain 21:30h
November 26th – San Juan Evangelista, Madrid, Spain 21:00h
November 27th – CCC Caldas da Raínha, Portugal 21:30
November 28th – Culturgest, Lisbon, Portugal 21:30
November 29th – CAP Portalegre, Portugal 21:30
November 30th – Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal 22:00
Tour promtoted by Arco Y Flecha and Clean Feed.
Special thanks to Olga Abalos.
Mauger – The Beautiful Enabler (CF 114)
Bob and Ellen Weller – Point of Contact (Circumvention Music)
In the few years since his departure from daily life in New York, bassist Mark Dresser’s activities have been very well documented. Two new discs feature him in trio format, one with East Coast musicians, including longtime partner drummer Gerry Hemingway, and the other with fellow San Diego improvisers.
Mauger is a collective trio comprised of saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dresser and Hemingway. Dresser and Hemingway have a 30-year history, having first worked together in the late ’70s and most notably in the quartet Anthony Braxton led from the mid ’80s until the early ’90s, with Marilyn Crispell on piano. In terms of energy level and musicianship, The Beautiful Enabler shares much with that quartet. The most striking characteristic is the players’ ability to make complex music grounded in spontaneity. All three members brought challenging compositions to this project, but the skillfully executed ink also serves as a setup for the stunning pyrotechnics that the trio produce in performance.
The opening track is Hemingway’s “Acuppa” and the lead-in is a melodic bassline around which the rest of the trio wraps fragmented melodic and textural constructs, finally arriving at a robust swing feel for Mahanthappa’s solo. The latter’s explorations into alternate fingerings are the focal point on his piece “Intone,” with some swirling microtonality that sets up the ensuing abstract ensemble interactions. There are characteristics of the Dresser-penned title track that recall contemporary chamber music, with a form that features sections of notated material interspersed between open improvisation. Dresser and Hemingway are experts at integrating total freedom with difficult notated material and this provides a different environment for Mahanthappa’s work, which usually involves compositions that have more structured improvisations. Nonetheless, the trio functions with a profoundly deep level of interaction.
Point of Contact features the husband-and-wife duo of Bob and Ellen Weller, who have operated together in many contexts, often with members of the San Diego-based Trummerflora Collective. With Ellen on a variety of woodwinds and Bob using unlikely string preparations inside the piano, the timbral palette is quite vast throughout the record and the sensitivity of the interaction is meaningful and engaging. The influence of Paul Bley and Jimmy Giuffre is often apparent, with a subdued patience that brings a measured pace, though contrasting tempi and radical shifts in density await around every corner. The tracks that include Dresser expand the sonic and rhythmic spectrum, though the two Wellers do a wonderful job of creating rhythmic drive and textural intrigue on the duo and solo cuts. Ellen’s flute playing is colorful, with unexpected turns and vocalizations on the solo track “Mandlebrot” and the duo with Dresser, “Cassini Huygens”. “Concatenation” is a trio track with a great groove from clarinet and bass and noisy string rumblings and cascading dissonances from the piano. On “Aftermath,” the prepared piano makes for some highly engaging flurries of sound, contrasting with the cool tone of the flute.
Memorize The Sky – In Former Times (CF 122)
Matt Bauder (reeds), Zach Wallace (double bass) and Aaron Siegel (percussion) have been performing and recording as Memorize The Sky for about a decade, and their music has the sense of refinement such longevity can bring. It is a music of carefully placed “notes” and “sounds” wherein both notions become blurred. It drifts slowly, but not aimlessly, and it is often difficult to tell just what the source of some sounds is.
After a low-key opening of buzz-rolled snare and rising/falling tones, a slight rhythmic suggestion like a spoked wheel turning is overlaid with slight melody, breath sounds and what could be water. The piece grows seemingly of it’s own accord.
All of the untitled tracks on this disc were recorded live in Austria, but very little information about them is given. I am assuming these gentlemen are improvising, and if so the restraint displayed in these five untitled tracks is admirable. The second piece begins with plucked bass notes and scrabbly drumhead scratchings, joined eventually by popping notes from tenor sax. The interplay is slowly intensified but never reaches fever-pitch, more like smeared free jazz, the recollection of a band through the haze of memory. The third piece has high-pitched harmonics and metallic ringing with flutter-key overblowing, each player’s sounds raising and sinking like waves. It has a resemblance to electronic music in its modus of sonic layering, but with acoustic instruments… and no electronic effects that I can discern. Toward the end of the piece one is reminded of Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians’ in the timbre and quick bowing of the bass; the billowing chords here are especially beautiful.
The final offering definitely resembles a song, like an old ballad played exceedingly slowly, and it gives the whole disc a sense of moving toward this, as if the players were creeping ever so glacially toward a theme, which is stated briefly and then it’s gone. Not an after-thought, but a culmination.