Dewdrop Recordings DDR 002

Defined as the union of opposites, Mandorla, the Italian word for “almond”, is used adroitly in this case. An ancient symbol of two circles overlapping one another to form an almond shape, it accurately describes this short — 46 minute — and exceptional CD of impressive, improvisations by what should be paradoxical partners.

Flutist Jane Rigler is a woman, an American and an academic with a PhD from the University of California, San Diego in Theoretical and Experimental Studies. With a repertoire that includes complex scores by Brian Ferneyhough, Vinko Globokar, John Cage and Bruno Maderna among others, she has also explored electronics, interactive computer music and improvisation with the likes of violinist Christoph Irmer, inside-pianist Andrea Neuman and percussionist Lê Quan Ninh.

In contrast, pianist Augustí Fernández is a man, a Spaniard — more accurately a Catalonian — and at this point the most accomplished Iberian experimental musician. He has worked on the New music side with Irmer and Ninh among others; spread the gospel of free music in his native Barcelona with Trio Local; and recorded with full-tilt improvisers such as Americans, bassist William Parker and percussionist Susie Ibarra, plus British guitarist Derek Bailey.

On these nine pieces, presented exactly in the order in which they were recorded, Rigler and Fernández find common ground in mutual sound curiosity. Besides that, you may suspect that the flutist’s long residency in Spain, playing with different contemporary ensembles, and the pianist’s interaction with American jazzers may provide additional concordance.

Rigler may have the tones available from flute, alto flute, piccolo and voice at her disposal, but Fernández utilizes the innards of his instrument as much as its keyboard for added color. On the final track, for instance, there’s a point where he sounds out a theme on the piano keys as crashing waves of manipulated prepared strings and stops echo from its innards. Using short breaths and strangled cries, Rigler squeezes a whimpering tin whistle-like sound from her piccolo. Finally the tune ends with tones that resemble the scratches of a wire brush on cymbals.

These likely arise from the pianist’s inventions since many of the other tracks find him scraping raccoon-like from within his instrument rather than sounding proper chords. In fact, the whining, accentuated plucks he creates on “Mandorla 1-3” sound as if they’re emanating from a bluesman’s National steel guitar rather than a pianoforte. Rigler’s conception and response is an accompaniment of ocean wave suggestions, flowing in long puffs in different tempi from her horn.

Elsewhere, she vocalizes from within her instrument, producing mouth and lip clicks, quasi-orgasmic breaths, harsh metal shaking shouts and high-pitched, bird-like whistles. A Continental gentlemen cognizant of a woman’s desire, the pianist spends much of his time on many of the tracks digging out low-pitched, reverberating drones to provide the ostinato upon which she can soar, cross blow and flutter tongue. Glissandos and chords can be sounded, but the epitome of a Mandorla is cooperation, not bringing attention to oneself.

A fine duo achievement, the disc shows what two sympathetic but opposite talents can accomplish when they intersect.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Mandorla 1-1 2. Mandorla 1-2 3. Mandorla 1-3 4. Mandorla 1-4 5. Mandorla 1-5 6. Mandorla 1-6 7. Mandorla 1-7 8. Mandorla 1-8 9. Mandorla 1-9

Personnel: Jane Rigler (flute, alto flute, piccolo, voice); Augustí Fernández (piano)