MILO FINE/MICK BECK/PAUL HESSION

Motion Ejecta
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1164

An Anglo-American concordance, this CD celebrates a reciprocal idea exchange between three men who help nurture free improv scenes in their hometowns.

It’s also a musical souvenir from an American abroad, in this case Minneapolis, Minn.’s drummer/clarinetist Milo Fine, who works with two Englishmen — Leeds-based drummer Paul Hession and Sheffield reedist Mick Beck — as if they constituted a regular group, rather than participants in a second meeting. Fine played with the others at guitarist Derek Bailey’s Company Week in 1988. Miraculously on the tracks here, the three pick up the musical thread as if there was no 15-year hiatus.

Because of his location, the drummer/reedist is an old hand at instant sound transactions. At home in the Twin Cities with guitarist Steve Gnitka, he’s welcomed guests ranging from French cellist Didier Petit to multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee for improv sessions.

MOTION EJECTA is a bit different. It’s one example of the 16 gigs he participated in England during a 6½-week period in 2003, he also traded licks with a clutch of Brit improvisers including Bailey, drummer Roger Turner and bassist Tony Wren. His interaction with Beck and Hession was particularly simpatico though, perhaps because he has worked out cooperative strategies for reeds and drums for the past 20-odd years. Hession has also worked with McPhee as well as such distinct personalities as bassist Simon H. Fell and baritone saxist George Haslam. Beck’s playing partners range from Bailey to Fell and way beyond.

Most breathtaking — literally — of the collaborations here is the more than 34-minute “Point 1”, though the strategies developed show up on the shorter tracks as well. Each man expresses his individual approach, but there are also times when not only isn’t it clear whether it’s Fine’s or Beck’s reed playing or Hession or Fine using the drum set, but also as to which instrument a particular sound should be ascribed.

Elephant-trumpeting lines first arise from Beck’s tenor saxophone as bird-like chirruping obbligatos from Fine’s clarinet curve around it. Intense, Beck is soon biting off great hunks of double-stopping tones as Hession works his way around the rims and other portions of his kit with flams, bounces and rebounds and Fine twitters away in treetop high freak registers. Then Beck brings out his bassoon, and its droning, grumbling ejaculations push everything else out of the way. Able to double — and triple — tongue on a double reed, he creates dissonant textures you wouldn’t associate with the usual orchestral instrument; at points it almost sounds like a pizzicato bass. Beck’s repetitive obbligato so energizes Fine, that he too spritzes Aylerian trills and cries that would be defined as ponticello if they came from strings.

Hession’s — and perhaps Fine’s — cymbals set off a distant, understated whir as Beck sounds both his double reed and whistle in tandem, creating a primitive Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like depiction. Scooping notes from his body tube, he vibrates his lips and diaphragm, mating extreme flattement with half-yelled cries. A return to tenor for a duet with Hession is soon scotched as Fine adds his clarinet, so that the meshed reed textures sound as if they come from the bellows of an accordion.

Moving between legato smoothness, circular breathing and reed barks, the British reedist sets an almost impossibly high criterion for the American. But Fine soon introduces obtuse wiggling tones and offbeat smears to meet Beck’s ascending glottal tongue stops until the two reach a polyphonic harmony of broken octaves with the clarinet squeaking simian-like and the saxophone muzzily honking. Skirting stop time by a ligature length, the drummer’s polyrhythms bring them closer together. Unconventional as the other two in his playing, Hession spanks rim shots that sound like reed tongue slaps pushing both hornmen up and down the scale, to end with glottal stops.

Shorter — a more than 17 minutes and an almost 5½-minute condensations of the first track — the other two pieces extend and amplify the cooperation that developed among the three and are from another concert recorded two days later.

Perhaps this CD was a one-off meeting for a few gigs. But it captures exhilarating and extraordinary intercommunication.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Point 1* 2. Adelphi 1 3. Adelphi 2

Personnel: Milo Fine (Bb and Eb clarinets, drums*); Mick Beck, tenor saxophone (bassoon, voice, whistle); Paul Hession (drums)