June 2, 2000
PAUL PLIMLEY/BARRY GUY
Sensology Maya CD 9701
The old cliché about music having no geographical boundaries is only partially true when it comes to pure improv. Getting two or more players who routinely work without the safety nets of charts or bar lines to tag team is more complicated than allaying some mainstreamers, counting off "I Got Rhythm" or "Night In Tunisia" and letting 'er rip. (Parenthetically, though, those jam sessions too are chancier than naïve record producers or promoters would have you believe).
What you need is musicians willing to listen attentively to one another and subsume their virtuosity within the greater whole. Case in point, this CD, recorded in Vancouver by a Canadian pianist, a British bassist and released by an Irish-based label.
The end product works out well, however, because both men are experienced free improvisers. Best-known for his work with such musicians as multi-reedist Joe McPhee, endlessly-inventive pianist Plimley has never had to relocate from his home town of Vancouver to find playing opportunities in North America and Europe. Bassist Guy, who was involved with the creation of EuroImprov from its beginnings 30 years ago, not only leads the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and is an integral part of the Evan Parker trio, but his playing talents have been praised by no less a seminal figure than Cecil Taylor.
Here the two circle around one another in duets that clock in at slightly more than one minute to the 12 minute plus title track. On it, for example, Guy is able to jump from high-pitched arco runs to atmospheric backdrops while Plimley explores the upper reaches of the piano. "Jazz for now and never more", on the other hand, could be the sound of a slightly skewed nightclub duo, with the odd bit of stride piano peeking through Tayloresque runs. Meanwhile "Murmurs and darts" features Guy surgically extracting tones that result when objects are placed between the strings of his bass.
Most notably "Joyous absence of disco", built around "prepared" bass and steady-rolling tension-and-release pianistics. Although there's no "good beat to dance to", as teens used to mumble on dance party telecasts, it still gets rated as a "10".
Don't expect to see these two musicians on any dance TV shows anytime in the future. But if it's memorable improvisations you're after, SENSOLOGY is as good a place as any to start.
Track listing: 1. This is not much less than flat 2. Short steps until it finally dawned 3. Rolling agreement 4. Gnat notes in lyrical amber 5. Lyrical amber, hand held 6. Hand held hot coals 7. Sensology 8. What to do 9. Jazz for now and never more 10. Murmers and darts 11. Sticks and bones 12. Joyous absence of disco 13. Slowly getting to know the audience
Personnel: Paul Plimley (piano); Barry Guy (double bass)