ABBEY RADER & DAVE LIEBMAN

Cosmos
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1158

ISGLEM
Fire
NORCD 0343

Created two months apart in the widely divergent climates of steamy Florida and chilly Norway, the music of the two proficient duos here has more in common than either would have imagined at the time.

Americans, saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman and drummer and percussionist Abbey Rader are two of the most technically proficient musicians around. Both — Liebman especially — are celebrated for teaching master classes, writing instructional manuals and participating in numberless instrumental clinics for younger musicians. At the same time both are full-time players, committed to the exploratory sounds identified with John Coltrane and Elvin Jones. Liebman was in Jones’ band in the early 1970s, while Rader played in the late pianist Mal Waldron’s groups and partnered with violinist Billy Bang.

Norwegians, tenor saxophonist and ram’s horn player Karl Seglem and percussionist Terje Isungset spend a lot of time in schools too, usually introducing their band Isglem’s mixture of local folk music, Free Jazz and modern European sounds to pre-university age students. Seglem’s associations include work with ethnic ensembles emphasizing voices and the indigenous Hardanger fiddle; while Isungset crafts his own instruments from Norwegian natural elements such as Arctic birch, granite, slate, sheep bells, and even ice.

You would think that the American spiritual tradition — jazz division — is most congruent to the Norwegian shamanistic tradition — improv style. At least it should be clear on the moody “Norwegian Fisherman” played by Liebman on indigenous flute and Rader on what sounds like primitive hand percussion. Still, you’d only be partially right. For while the extended penny whistle-like intonation Liebman creates may suggest Scandinavian bleakness, Rader’s West- African percussion strain also fits Isglem’s music as it does Liebman and Rader’s. Isglem isn’t a folk music band after all.

For instance, compare many of the Trane-influenced extended tracks on COSMOS with “Smileg”, at fewer than six minutes the longest track on FIRE. Here Seglem spits out growling, screeching split tones, creating sympathetic horn vibrations, while Isungset’s relentless rhythm builds to a crescendo that recalls African log drumming as much as the Scandinavian tradition. On “Egslim”, moreover, the tenor’s sheets of sound and drummer’s rat-tat tats are definitely in the Trane-Elvin tradition.

Then there’s “Egsmil”, with Isungset initially on a regular kit producing a standard jazz-style beat, matched with Seglem’s surprisingly brassy tenor saxophone, expanded with droning screeches. The percussion response arises from double-handed bells, small percussive instruments and shattered cymbal beats.

By the same token, one can’t overvalue the band’s jazz values though. During the course of the less than 37-minute CD there are enough Viking throat growls and yells, intensified and deepening ram’s horn assaults and distinctly rural Scandinavian pitches to almost satisfy finicky World music fanciers. Alternately, Isglem also shows enough individuality with its use of abstruse electronic tones and extended techniques suggesting electric guitar and bass clarinet textures that some of its tunes would stand World music purists’ hairs on edge.

By the same token Liebman and Rader aren’t your standard jazzers either. While the saxist may hear the head of “Off A Bird of having a bebop feel in honor of Charlie Parker, the two obviously aren’t thinking of Wynton Marsalis’ Charlie Parker. Their Bird tribute includes powerful rolls, slides and drags from the snares and cymbals plus nasal, irregular vibrations, resonating slurs and reed-biting screams and squeals.

Trane and his followers were also known for being able to play at great length, and with a CD that’s approximately twice the duration of Isglem’s these two fit the mould. At the same time, Liebman’s airy flute tone and ethereal soprano sax separate him from Trane, and his tenor playing, technically at least, goes beyond the older man’s influence.

During the course of four versions of “Short Call” for instance, Liebman tone speedily moves from joyously questing to sombre and balladic, and from honking multiphonics to intense obbligatos. He pugnaciously triple tongues when he desires and turns excessively pastoral when the sounds demand it. Meantime, Rader accompanies him not only with pile driver rhythms when needed, but also with oblique bell shaking, much different from Isungset’s though.

Even the Trane-composed tunes that close the program don’t lose their timeless balladic qualities among Liebman’s double tonguing and slurring. They remain stately and processional — and in the case of the coda to (fittingly) “Peace On Earth”, sunny and serene.

In music as in faith, there are many ways to seek the truth and these duos have discovered two of the paths.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Cosmos: 1. Introduction 2. Cosmos 3. Off A Bird 4. Short Call 1 5. Short Call 2 6. Short Call 3 7. Short Call 4 8. Norwegian Fisherman 9. Expression 10. The Drum Thing 11. Peace on Earth

Personnel: Cosmos: Dave Liebman (soprano and tenor saxophone, ram’s horn, electronics, voice); Abbey Rader (drums, percussion)

Track Listing: Fire: 1. Glemis 2. Melsie 3. Glimse 4. Egsmil 5. Siglemto 6. Egslim 7. Misgel 8. Lgisme 9. Smileg 10. Legmis 11. Imgles 12. Emglis

Personnel: Fire: Karl Seglem (tenor saxophone, ram’s horn, electronics, voice); Terje Isungset (drums, percussion, ram’s horn, voice)