May 1, 2006
FRED LONBERG-HOLM TRIO
Atavistic ALP 165CD
FRED LONBERG-HOLM QUARTET
Bridges Freeze Before Roads
Longbox Records lbt036
Chicago cello crusader Fred Lonberg-Holm is usually so busy with his back-up duties in bands ranging from the Vamndermark5 to Peter Brötzmanns Tentet to what seems like half the CDs recorded in that city, that his solo dates are infrequent.
From the evidence presented here, this may be a wise strategy. OTHER VALENTINES is his own trios follow-up tribute CD to the music of pioneering jazz cellist Fred Katz. It also includes compositions by, among others Sun Ra, Gil Scott-Heron, Wilcos Jeff Tweedy and Pink Floyds Syd Barrett. But indolent pacing and a limited color palate stick the 10 tracks in a box of muted sameness that it barely escapes.
Cello, bass and drums can only express so much, especially if the cellist insists on taking most of the solos. BRIDGES FREEZE BEFORE ROADS fares better however. Its probably because while it, like the other CD, features the cellist, the same bassist (Jason Roebke of Tigersmilk), and a drummer Wilcos Glenn Kotche, who preceded Frank Rosaly as part of the Lonberg-Holm trio is here, Rosaly on the other disc Guillermo Gregorio is also on hand. The Argentinean-born, Chicago-based clarinetists harsh pitches and layering strokes.
Another difference is that while OTHER VALENTINES is apparently a collection of songs, BRIDGES FREEZE BEFORE ROADS works to ascertain how many textures and timbres can be organized on six identically titled tracks
Although Lonberg-Holms pizzicato skills extend to making his cello sound like an acoustic guitar on some tracks, on OTHER VALENTINES this merely adds another placid layer to the performances. Despite, or because of it Vals På Vinegar ends up sounding like a poignant take on Hey Jude. On the other hand, the preponderance of arco textures elsewhere makes the indie-rock and alt-country themes here sound as if theyre really soft rock tunes performed by the 1001 Strings. Originals like the cellists Almost Mid-Day taken adagio like much of the rest of the CD move in a straight line without reaching a destination. Meanwhile Katzs own composition, To My Buddy, Buddy may have some quietly spectacular double-stopping from the cellist in middle, but these bumps soon subside to sameness.
Barretts Arnold Layne, and surprisingly enough Flo, another Lonberg-Holm composition, are the only tracks that really stand out. The former does so because of the triple-stopped splintered textures from the cellist that is doubled with Roebkes bass line. The later offers some polyphonic pulses from Lonberg-Holm, some broken octave interface between the three and Rosaly, who plays less conventionally in the Chicago Luzern Exchange, another band in which hes featured, rattling and slapping his snares and cymbals.
In contrast, Free Improv and New Music currents are built into the tracks on BRIDGES FREEZE BEFORE ROADS as Gregorios harsh, buzzy obbligatos bring out complementary textures from the cellist. Out of the blue, it seems, Lonberg-Holm is using his bow on the space beneath the bridge, up near the tuning pegs, and vibrating the wood of his instruments back and belly.
The reedists tonal expansion takes in bubbling trills and sibilant split tones in the coloratura register, as well as the gradually expelling of colored air. Simultaneously Lonberg-Holm scratches new pitches from his strings, Roebke underscores the others with pedal-point, and Kotche shakes and rattles his drums while ringing small bells. Eventually the diffuse tones unite polyphonically as the piece is concluded with lip buzzing vibrations and punctuated textures from Gregorio.
Lonberg-Holm followers may treat OTHER VALENTINES less severely, but examined in this context with the other CD, it suggests that the cellist needs the challenge of powerful contrasts to do better work.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Bridges: 1. exit: 337 2. exit: 650 3. exit: 920 4. exit: 457 5. exit: 641 6. exit: 739
Personnel: Bridges: Guillermo Gregorio (clarinet); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello); Jason Roebke (bass); Glenn Kotche (percussion)
Track Listing: Valentines: 1. East of Uz 2. Fool 3. Arnold Layne 4. Amost Mid-Day 5. Vals På Vinegar 6. Flo 7. Winter in America 8. Jesus Etc. 9. I Got Nothing 10. To My Buddy, Buddy
Personnel: Valentines: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello); Jason Roebke (bass); Frank Rosaly (drums)