DAN DECHELLIS/JEFF ARNAL

The Dirigibles Between Similarities
Sachimay SCA 9353

Piano and percussion duets have been a fertile ground for expansive improvisations ever since Cecil Taylor began cultivating the territory with a variety of drummers in the early 1960s. Since that time such post modernists as Marilyn Crispell and Gerry Hemingway, Borah Bergman and Hamid Drake and Irène Schweizer and Pierre Favre have successfully plowed those Elysium fields as a matched pair.

With this CD, Queens, N.Y.-based pianist Dan DeChellis and Brooklyn percussionist Jeff Arnal join that august crowd.

DeChellis, who tightrope walks the thin strand between contemporary classical and jazz in a variety of contexts in performance and on other CDs, and Arnal, who has toured his percussion procedures in both North America and Europe, fit hand-in-glove here because they played together for six months before recording. With the instant compositions occupying either as soloist or timekeeper, the need for a bassist or any other instrumentalist is eliminated.

Throughout the pianist's operating procedure seems to begin tunes such as "Art After Attic" or "In Front of the Bull" at a quiet, almost leisurely pace, then ratchet up the intensity with glissandos. Never losing the thread of the improvisation, which is frequently melodic, he often annexes many of the drummer's cymbal or toms repetitions into his worldview.

These steady cymbal modulations sometimes move pieces like "Seventh Exception" closer to jazz. Meanwhile "Superimpositions" with its harpsichord allusions and "Secure Landscape" where DeChellis appears to be using a prepared piano in one section as Arnal strokes what could be kettle drums in another, head towards the New music side of the fence.

Both men sometimes perform like a tag team of foot racers, slowing or speeding up the pace to let the other catch up. Probably the most revealing — and longest — example of this is the final tune, "Salt/Pepper to Taste". Here piano runs roam from a crawly silent movie soundtrack sound at the beginning to steady recurring slides and tiny dancing notes in the centre to an ending made up of powerful pickaxed chords. All the while Arnal and the different parts of his kit keep up the pace like a competitive runner heading into the home stretch.

That composition also serves as a reverse recipe for the entire session. There's no need for extra seasoning anywhere in DIRIGIBLES nearly 48 minutes. The two participants have created a fine, nourishing musical repast on their own.

- Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Ear Device 2. Superimpositions 3. Corners 4. In Front of the Bull 5. Disorientation of Memory 6. Seventh Exception 7. Secure Landscape 8. Art After Attic 9. Salt/Pepper to Taste

Personnel: Dan DeChellis (piano); Jeff Arnal (percussion)