Splasc(H) Records 729.2

Perhaps because of the accidents of geography, European percussionists seem to have internalized a completely difference mind set than North American drummers. Without straying into another generalization, the most accomplished of them appear of have both a fondness for free settings and a sense of goofy fun in their playing. At least that's what would pull together work by Germany's Günter "Baby" Sommer, The Netherlands's Han Bennink and Italy's Tiziano Tononi.

Slovenian Zlatko Kaucic is another exemplar, as this duo session, recorded in Gorizia, Italy proves. Active since the 1970s, he's been associated with a broad spectrum of Euro improvisers and styles including those of Irene Schweitzer, Gianluigi Trovesi and Tete Montoliu. Significantly, as well, his partner here was only born in 1966, but has already established a Continental reputation through his membership in French drummer Aldo Romano's quartet

Definitely on the abstract side of the equation, most of the CD is made up of "Squarci", which is actually one long improvisation. Described as divided into seven tracks in the CD booklet, each section actually flows into the next when listening.

With a suprisingly light touch, Kaucic is almost inaudible at times, using only the barest hints of rhythm to give the tunes certain shapes. The antithesis of the showy, bomb-dropping Swing egotist, his fundamental concern seems to be the diversity of tones. Not that he ignores the fundamentals, though. There's a whole straight-ahead section on track four, which could even impress a Marsalis follower, if those musicians would be pleased by anything other than themselves.

More than his hands and wrists come into his conception as well, since Kaucic isn't shy about employing a slide whistle to goose along the proceedings. Strangely enough, the noisemaker even makes a muted appearance in the ballad section on track six.

Effectively tart and swift on his extended alto sax forays, Negri also effectively utilizes the clarinet in a manner far removed from its traditional settings. Sweeping legato passages serve to solder disparate sounds and themes together, helped at times by metallic cymbal scratches from Kaucic.

If there's a drawback to this nearly 60 minute recital, it's the few times when the partners ignore the advice that goes into making a duo — or a marriage — work, and stop speaking to one another through their instruments. At that time the performance begins to resemble a recording of two soloists. Luckily, though, musical marriage counseling soon gets them together again.

Whether this was a first encounter or a consistent coupling isn't made clear. It's likely the former, since on this CD the two never make it into the top rank of such experienced saxophone-percussion dyads as Evan Parker and Paul Lytton or Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell. Still for anyone intrigued by both or either instrument and the art of collaboration, there's much to like on SQUARCI.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Sqaurci 2. Sqaurci 3. Sqaurci 4. Sqaurci 5. Sqaurci 6. Sqaurci 7. Sqaurci 8. Sbronzo sulla via Carducci

Personnel: Mauro Negri (alto saxophone, clarinet); Zlatko Kaucic (drums, percussion)