13 Definitions Of Truth
Quakebasket 17/Locust 20

Macabre after a fashion, this fine duo CD resonates with extra-musical prescience, since it was recorded in the same space where German bassist Peter Kowald would play his final concert less than 10 months later.

Kowald died of heart failure in September 2002, after falling ill after a trio gig at Brooklyn’s b.p.m. multi-art space. A man who was constantly refining his playing, this earlier tête-à-tête with American percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani shows that the bassist was up to new situations and new challenges at all times.

Only the second time the two improvisers had worked together, these 13 DEFINITIONS OF TRUTH find both men inhabiting a similar musical space. Known for solo work and collaborations with microtonal explorers of the New York-Boston axis like trumpeter Greg Kelley and saxophonists Bhob Rainey and David Gross, Nakatani’s style is a mixture of silence and pinpoint indications. Kowald, one of the first European Free Jazzers, will forever be associated with the ferocious groundbreaking work of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann in the 1960s. However, for the past couple of decades he immersed himself in less strident more meticulous situations and forged a focused connection to players from different cultures.

On this CD, he’s the moving force, with his sweeping bow movements and pizzicato explorations. Often creating something akin to ritualistic gagaku, there are suggestions of the Chinese pipa or Japanese biwa in his bass work. Recurrently, in fact, it appears that he’s using both his fingers and bow simultaneously, plucking out irregular patterns as he beats the strings. In the lowest registers he makes his bull fiddle ring like a 12-string guitar; arco, at high pitches, you could swear the tones come from a flute. Still at other times, he sounds all four strings at the same time with different overtones.

While Kowald solos, the percussionist is biding his time, intervening only when he sees fit. Then he provides a buzzing drone, what appears to be the manipulation of tempered glass, microscopic tiny cymbal and triangle pings, and the quivering of temple bells and chains.

To counter the bassist at his most boisterous he does apply pressure to his bass drum or appears to be hurling a box full of percussion tools skyward. And never underestimate the power — and sound — of a drumstick being dragged across a heavy ride cymbal.

Related to Native American or Scandinavian shamanistic tradition, Kowald would usually cap every performance by vocalizing deep into the bass’s innards through its f holes,. The stentorian tone he uses is both resonant and otherworldly. Here with Nakatani using his drums to hammer out what could be the sounds of a train passing through a station, as Kowald vocalizes, if you’re very romantic you can metaphorically hear the sonic as a divination of the bassist’s eventually passage to the spaceways.

It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Kowald, who is characterized as “a friend, hero, great music partner, and father” in the drummer’s booklet notes, no more forecast his demise than any of us would.

What he was doing instead was fusing his conceptions with those of Nakatani. Together they actualized a memorable CD, which — and here’s where reality bites — will be their only recorded musical meeting.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Definition 1 2. Definition 2. 3. Definition 3 4. Definition 4 5. Definition 5 6. Definition 6 7. Definition 7 8. Definition 8 9. Definition 9 10. Definition 10 11. Definition 11

Personnel: Peter Kowald (bass); Tatsuya Nakatani (drums, percussion, bowed percussion)