Intersection Poems
Spool Line SPL125

From the Bottle
Family Vineyard FV28

North American free trade of the most benign kind, FROM THE BOTTLE features an invigorating live performance from a trio mad up of two Americans and a Canadian, while INTERSECTION POEMS is another fine effort which adds an American pianist to an already constituted Canadian combo, which includes Tigersmilk’s drummer.

Vancouver-based Dylan van der Schyff has also brought his percussion wizardry to partnerships featuring such disparate players as American trumpeter Dave Douglas and British saxophonist John Butcher. His most frequent playing partner – and his wife – is cellist Peggy Lee, who also works with a clutch of international performers. Those two, trumpeter Bill Clark and guitarist Ron Samworth made up the band Talking Pictures, making this CD a reunion plus. The plus is Seattle-based keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, whose credentials include work with Bill Frisell and John Zorn, and who has known of the Vancouverites since the late 1980s.

Recorded six months after the seven improvisations on INTERSECTION, POEMS, FROM THE BOTTLE is Tigersmilk’s second CD. It’s a Chicago date which matches the drummer and local in-demand bassist Jason Roebke with cornet and laptop electronics manipulator Rob Mazurek, a veteran of the Chicago Underground groups, who now lives in Brazil.

Mazurek isn’t so in love with electronics, however, that he lets them dominate the proceedings. For instance, on track four, there’s a point where the cornetist’s live and prerecorded self seem to be improvising in harmony. But when it comes to slurred grace notes and translucent triplets, only the singular brassman is on mic. Meantime, van der Schyff is knitting accompaniment out of bell pealing, rim shots and clip clops before leveling the beat with brushes. At points you can hear what he does with each part of the kit in isolation. Not to be outdone, Roebke speedily double stops. Pushing aside an undercurrent of laptop, outer-space loops, open-horned the brassman then sprays a cascade of whole notes that meet up with tough, near-jazz drumming.

Then, on the final, almost-19-minute track, an ostinato of sequenced rumbles bubble underneath a percussion outing. Soon Mazurek squeezes out single notes with a soft Milesean lilt. Rubato and a cappella, his solo then takes on a Latinesque tinge. Almost a nocturne, his output is more sensuous than melancholy. Eventually he gives way to van der Schyff who parlays repetitive cowbell action and cymbal splashes into an emphasized beat, built around heavier and harder press rolls and single strokes echoing from the splash cymbal. Heading into the final variation, Roebke both strums guitar-like and injects spiccato pumping as the cornetist’s whinnying triplets climax as a lone, saturated tone.

Hissing electronic flutters are a barely-there component of the third track as well. But different impulses enliven it more. There’s the drummer starting things off with marital rattles, matched up with Mazurek’s bugle-like tattoo. As the other two twist the exposition out of shape, the brassman showcases both growly mouthpiece pressure and a squeaky, muted tone. Focused accents from the drummer give way to busy cross stick ruffs and flams as a steady bass line intertwines itself with some looping electronic reverb. Delay is used sparingly, so that Mazurek’s slurred patterns are his creations, not the product of cavernous reverb. With each of the three cognizant of background and upfront manipulations, technical wizardry merely emphasizes this close cooperation.

Teamwork is also the byword of INTERSECTION POEMS, despite five individual voices on a first time recording situation in this configuration. Visitor Horvitz establishes his bone fides almost from the first minutes on “Merge à la gauche”, the premier – and at nearly nine minutes – longest tune.

Stuttering, low frequency pianisms soon turn harder with pitter-patter pumping while Lee molds sul ponticello and sul tasto abrasions into more soothing legato lines. A choked, brassy tremolo from Clark sets up hammered pressure on the keys from the pianist as the cellist double stops the melody and van der Schyff contributes rolls and rumbles. Finale is low-keyed shuffle bowing vying for space with a sprinkle of penetrating piano notes.

“Merge à la gauche” also comes to a satisfactory conclusion, although the alternate strategy is the only criticism that can be leveled at this CD. Too often tunes merely dribble away, rather than making any sort of complete statement. This happens with the tile tune that, among a showcase of romantic piano arpeggios and hoedown resonation from the cello, impresses with the skill in which Lee splits her vibrating patterns into two separate melodies. But where’s the conclusion?

The question remains with many of the other pieces, but the playing is so accomplished, while at the same time being nearly ego-less that summation at times becomes secondary. With years of interaction between Samworth and Lee to draw on, it often appears as if guitar licks are inaudible. In many cases however, it’s Samworth who is probably using a stick and an e-bow to pummel and resonate his strings to replicate Lee’s ponticello work.

“…When Amber Flashing” sums this up as scraped interface from the guitarist, heraldic trumpeting from Clark, plinks and plucks from Lee, centred flams from the drummer and off-centre high frequency chording from Horvitz meld into a multi-hued musical meal. As the pianist continues to sound out thematic octave runs, Lee adds to the romantic underpinning with sprinkles of accented notes on top of a shifting tonal centre.

One of the most accomplished recent sessions involving Lee, and a confirmation of Tigersmilk’s maturing intercommunication, these Can-Am CD substantiate the idea that no matter where he lives, van der Schyff is a percussionist to hear.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Poems: 1. Merge à la gauche 2. Elk Crossing 3. Pavement Ends 4. Intersection Poems 5. Children at Play 6. Begin Two Way 7. …When amber flashing

Personnel: Poems: Bill Clark, (trumpet); Wayne Horvitz (piano); Ron Samworth (guitar); Peggy Lee (cello); Dylan van der Schyff (drums)

Track Listing: Bottle: 1. 11:49 2. 6:22 3. 15:25 4. 12:53 5. 1:57 6. 18:51

Personnel: Bottle: Rob Mazurek (cornet and laptop electronics); Jason Roebke (bass); Dylan van der Schyff (percussion)