AUM Fidelity AUM 025

Often the knock against multi-instrumentalists is like the stricture against studio musicians: the person has developed proficiency on a whole bunch of devices because he’s not particularly proficient on any one of them.

Like every other convention that may be true for some players, but someone coming up against say, Eric Dolphy, Ira Sullivan or Rahsaan Roland Kirk on any one of their horns would testify to the opposite. As this unique CD proves, it’s also the same for New York-based Daniel Carter.

Longtime outcat Carter plays trumpet, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto and tenor saxophone in most situations. Part of many bands going back three decades, he’s probably best known for his membership in the cooperatives TEST and Other Dimensions in Music. He’s also played with folks as different as avant-rock band Yo La Tengo and pianist Cecil Taylor. Here, however, he confines himself to alto saxophone and comes up with a magnificent outpouring from it.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in a way the events of 9/11 were responsible for this change in his modus operandi. Bassist Reuben Radding, who spent a decade in New York working in so-called downtown bands with Carter, guitarist Marc Ribot and composer John Zorn among others, then relocated to Seattle. In October 2001, he invited Carter to fly west for a series of duo concerts. But the airlines couldn’t guarantee the hornman’s axes would all be allowed on the plane.

Arriving with only his alto, Carter and Radding performed a series of duo concerts and recorded these seven poetic instant compositions at the same time. Free of the hurly burly of the Manhattan scene, the closest antecedent to these pieces would be the euphonious duets Ornette Coleman recorded on alto saxophone with bassist Charlie Haden in the mid-1970s.

Without detracting from his own skills, Carter’s playing does have a Coleman-like lilt here. At times, in fact, you can hear allusions to such Coleman’s Atlantic era tunes such as “Lonely Woman” and “Focus on Sanity”. This is especially true on the four in-concert selections that start the CD.

Here, the alto man’s appears to be no less than serene, smooth and straight even when he begins double tonguing. At mid-range he drawls out his arpeggios in such a way that you could swear he’s reiterating the verse from some long-forgotten Tin Pan Alley classic. On “ Blessing The Rice”, for example, he trills so voluminously in both upper and lower pitches that he produces tenor as well as alto saxophone tones. With Radding’s double and triple stops intersecting his solos, it’s almost as if you’re listening to double sax-and-bass trio, not a duo.

Elsewhere, when strumming and sliding around on his strings, or engendering his ringing bass rhythms to morph from legato to andante, the bassist matches Carter’s tart clipped phrases to such an extent that they set up their own rhythms. Triple stopping both arco and pizzicato, Radding offers up the canvas on which Carter can inscribe more abstract sounds. On the final piece, for instance, he and the reedist head into squeaking rodent territory, accompanying and playing off against one another. Slightly vibrating his pitch and embouchure, Carter produces a lower, wider tone which complements Radding’s low register bowing.

An adroit meeting of two sonic explorers, LUMINESCENCE even promises something for the future. With Radding back in Manhattan, the possibility of further duets looms.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. You And I Are Disappearing 2. Ancestral Voyage-Mystery Succeed 3. Refracted Light and Grace 4. Blessing The Ride 5. Vignettes 6. Qualcosa Verso Azzurro 7. Occurrences, Places, Entities and The Sea

Personnel: Daniel Carter (alto saxophone); Reuben Radding (bass)