Aspirations and Inspirations
Creative Sources CS 026 CD

Not Two MW 755-2

things i found to be true
Sedimental sedcd040

Three solo woodwind CDs come up with three unique strategies to overcome the singular conundrum. Each player here makes his experiments work by concentrating on a different facet of solo playing.

Long-time Boston-area minimalist – note his all lowercase CD title – David Gross has the facility to reduce his soprano saxophone to its essence, a metal tube with keys, mouthpiece, and a reed, He then manipulates each of the articles to produce unexpected textures. While he comes from a jazz background and studied with Yusef Lateef, his microtonal and reductionist stance fits in with the work of other experimenters from that city like trumpeter Greg Kelley, and those aboard like British drummer Eddie Prévost.

Conversely, in this performance recorded live in a Krakow, Poland, Joe Giardullo’s approach to the soprano is almost resolutely tonal and definitely more jazz-like. Someone who often works with multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, and like him lives in upstate New York, Giardullo’s reed work embraces melody and rhythm. Besides three originals in this recital, he also offers a solo recasting of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”.

French-born, American improviser Wade Matthews’ reed realization is perpendicular to those from the soprano saxophonists and not just because he plays flute and bass clarinet on his CD. Madrid-based and co-director of a Spanish improvised music collective, Matthews has a doctorate in composition and electronic music and his close-miked improvisations bring into play compositional ploys and acoustical textural replication that could also be a achieved by activated sine waves.

During the course of his nine selections, Matthews manipulates his oral techniques to such an extent that there are points where you’re not sure whether he’s playing the flute or bass clarinet. Each outing features mouth and key percussion as much as breaths, screams and whistles. When he seems to be emptying his oral cavity into a hollow tube, the resulting mellow high pitches or droning didjeridoo squalls suggest the horizontally blown instrumental.

Conversely, the bass clarinet brings out reed-munching implications as well as Donald Duck-like quacks that are as much nasal as oral. Subterranean multiphonics create conga drum-like resonation, while split tones work their way through droning pulsations, with one timbre constricted and aviary-like and its complementary node curved into a droning ostinato.

By “Chipotles Adobados “, the longest and climatic final track, all of these processes from constricted and higher-pitched rounded timbres to disconnected breathes of colored air forced through the hollow tube attain a particular logic as generic to this session as long lines are to Coleman Hawkins’ “Body and Soul”.

Sounding at the beginning as if Matthews is bubbling into a reverberating pipe, whistling squeaks and squawks soon reconstitute themselves into out-and-out internal screams, thick reed kisses and key percussion. Pseudo-marimba tones are alluded to by the last action as mouth and throat growls join with the constricted key pressure.

Gross’s nine tracks also flirt with extended techniques, but at barely 35 minutes – almost 11 minutes shorter than ASPIRATIONS AND INSPIRATIONS – it constantly confirms its reductionist status. If Matthews’ disc focuses on experimental methods as add-ons to conventional playing, then Gross’s is unabashedly atonal.

Elongated drones, dissolving reed tones and constricted air forced through the body tube are some of the more recognizable strictures. Nodes, vibrations, partials, tongue slaps and stops and glissandi are more prominent than any standard note. Breaths are swallowed as often as they’re expelled, the properties of scraped and resonated metal are taken into account, and curt mouth farts, nose-blowing snorts and foreshortened smears are all on display. Ever wonder if a soprano can mimic the cry of an infant or that of a wounded animal? They’re both here. Ever considered what would result if concentrated spittle was blared into the mouthpiece and body tube without a reed? That’s here too. There’s even a point where it appears as if the reedist is chomping through the sax’s neck for new sounds.

Gargantuan compared to the other two, Giardullo’s four-track, nearly-55-minute live recital is as firmly “in the tradition” as any solo outing by Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton or Steve Lacy would be. Often concerned with curlicue smears, blowsy spetrofluctuation, reed biting and bell-muting, the saxman holds onto to cyclic rhythmic patterns and resonated near melodies as he plays.

Throughout the prodigious blow-fest, you can hear his reed command, as continuous circular breathing, splayed, nasal and Arabic styled themes and multiple tonguing accelerate and decelerate. Scattered around the curt peeps, skyscraper high whistles and ping-ponged counter tones are entire passages that resonate with the spectre of half-recalled romantic melodies, reprised or sprinted by in an instant.

His condensation of “A Love Supreme”, one of Coltrane’s masterworks, reflects all this. Although he clambers from altissimo pitch vibrations to metal-shaking resonations and reed bites that flutter, cry and honk, he never loses sight of Trane’s spiritual underpinning. Considering he takes the tune at a different tempo than the original, subtle references to the older saxophonist’s mainstream style appear and vanish. Then, just when his rough tones are most nasal, he returns to the legato pacing of the original line. His triumph is in deconstructing the theme as he condenses it, subsequently reassembling it, the way magicians tear paper into scrapes than magically restore the whole sheet.

While WEATHER may have a slight edge for those listeners who fear stepping very far onto the experimental precipice, each one of these disc offers a valuable foretaste of 21st solo reed improvisation.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: things: 1. Partially Buried Woodshed 2. The Language of the Blues is on My Radar 3. A Porcelain Bowl with Fruit 4. Carnival of Souls 5. Dystonia 6. Things Are Different 7. Imagine the Drama/Magic Thinking/Narcissism/Spinning in the Middle of Nowhere Believing God looks just like We Do 8. What Music Sounds Like 9. Single (Version)

Personnel: things: David Gross (alto saxophone)

Track Listing: Weather: 1. Channeling 2. Weather 3. Times Change 4. A Love Supreme

Personnel: Weather: Joe Giardullo (soprano saxophone)

Track Listing: Aspirations: 1. Questions Unasked 2. Remembering William 3. Discontinuous Continua 4. Cassandra Wakes Up and Thinks for Herself 5. So Where Ya From, Wade? 6. Ice Palace 7. Scappa Flow 8. Three Dogs in Four Minutes 9. Chipotles Adobados

Personnel: Aspirations: Wade Matthews (alto flute and bass clarinet)