Desire & Need

Twenty years — and a multitude of live collaborations — since they first played together in a Sheffield, England improv session, reedist Charlie Collins and plectrumist John Jasnoch have finally released their first duo CD. It was worth the wait.

Throughout the disc, they give ample evidence of why their partnership has lasted this long. Jasnoch, whose initial interest was in Bluegrass and Country & Western, has since involved himself with electronic processing, working with the likes of composer/multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer. Here he plays guitar, mandolin and what he calls “ud”, but most spell “oud”. Collins, who plays alto saxophone, flute and clarinet, was a member of local Industrial rock bands in the 1970s. Later on he played with more experimental types like Archer and bassist Simon Fell.

Collins’ and Jasnoch’s varied background and multi-instrumentation gives this CD a far different sound from other duos with a similar line-up. Six different instrumental combinations are featured on the 11 tracks, which individually run from 29 seconds to nearly 12 minutes.

Guitar-and-alto tracks such as “Justice - Equal & Exact” and “The Social Matrix of Technology” — both of which hover around the 12 minute mark — and others, show the duo adapting the BritImprov traditional to their own ends. On the former, for instance, Jasnoch’s bent notes and accompanying fills spread out into circular flat picking and slurred fingering that resemble mandolin as much as guitar work. Meanwhile Collins’ intense, fluttering vibrato, tiny honklets and segmented breaths add as much to the piece’s landscape as his Eric Dolphy-like glides and reed-biting slurs.

The later tune is built on harsh, abrasive split tones from the alto that trill and growl into higher pitches as Jasnoch’s concentrated flat picking snaps out a twangy Rockabilly-like countermelody. Sideslipping into a higher key, Collins is soon joined by Jasnoch producing falsetto timbres on his highest string positions. Although the saxophonist’s playing stays andante, the fretman’s pace goes from staccato to staccatissimo, becoming more diffuse as the tune wheels along.

Similarly constituted duos can play in a comparable fashion, but Collins and Jasnoch’s individuality is most apparent when their unconventional couplings are heard. On “The Ambiguities of Freedom”, for instance, woody, mid-register clarinet lines meet splintering, single string Rebetika-like tones, creating a sort of Aegean blues. Soon the reedist glides down to the chalumeau register then up to squeaking coloratura. This causes Jasnoch to audibly slide along his strings, first creating a spherical melody line then scratching abrasively on the darker, heavier chords.

Multiple pairs of strings on the ud intensify this monodical mood, as the slurred fingerpicking of the Arab lute suggest a barbed polyphony that on “The Outlook” meshes perfectly with Collins’ twittering growls. Still in other places, Collins proves that the flute can be gritty as well as pretty.

All in all this CD seems to be another career highlight for the two men whose previous duple fame came with a performance at Company Week 1988. We can all be happy they finally recorded à deux.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. The Concept 2. The Emergence of Hierarchy 3. Epistemologies of Rule 4. The Legacy of Domination 5. Justice - Equal & Exact 6. The Legacy of Freedom 7. From Saints to Sellers 8. Two Images of Technologies 9. The Social Matrix of Technology 10. The Ambiguities of Freedom 11. The Outlook

Personnel: Charlie Collins (alto saxophone, flute and clarinet); John Jasnoch (guitar, mandolin and ud)