Gail Brand

Supermodel Supermodel

Both an affirmation of the benefits of unstructured first-time improvisation and a threnody of sorts for a fallen comrade, Supermodel Supermodel succeeds on its two levels.

Recorded in early 2003, in Oakland, Calif., the 13 instant compositions mark the initial collaboration between London-based trombonist Gail Brand and a group of Bay area musicians – guitarist John Shiurba, bassist Matthew Sperry, percussionist Gino Robair and laptopist Tim Perkins. Not everyone – even Brand – plays on every track of this 71-minute session, with three pieces recorded shortly after the initial dates in tribute to Sperry, who was killed in an auto accident in the interim.

An unshowy rhythm player, the versatile Sperry, who recorded with shakuhachi player Philip Gelb, composer/accordionist Pauline Oliveros and reedist Wolfgang Fuchs among others, adds some characteristic EuroImprov-style clinks and clanks here. But his skill lies in helping make this a CD of supremely group music,

Maneuvering his percussion collection, which includes a faux dax, horns, Styrofoam and an e-bow snare as well as drums, Robair takes a similar stance. Rattling and stroking his cymbals, resonating vibes-like tones and ratcheting, scraping and reverberating different sorts of friction from his trap set, the percussionist is part of the ever-shifting aural landscape, not an accompaniment to it. Surmounting the measured pitter-patter and bounces of Sperry and Robair, not to mention Shiurba’s flanged lines and snapping strings, however, both Brand’s and Perkins’ timbres prominently protrude from the mix.

On each of the eight tracks on which he plays, the electronics manipulator outputs specially designed signals of various forms. There are wave form oscillations, curving overtones, intermittent buzzes and scratchy pulses. For her part – the trombonist, who has been part of bassist Simon H. Fell’s quintet and recorded with guitarist Derek Bailey – isn’t fazed by electronics or ever-shifting rhythmic pulses. Her band Lunge usually features two players who extend their keyboard and violin textures with electronics. On the one Brand-Perkins duo here, she constructs a shuddering horizontal line on top of his triggered sound envelopes, then growls and snorts through the resonating burbles as if they are transparent.

Situations build more organically on pieces like “Stephanie Stephanie” and “Iman Iman”, inexplicably named like the other tunes for world-class fashion models. The later matches cymbal cracks, chromatic guitar licks and sliding stops from the bassist with wiggling electronic oscillations. Taking all this in stride, Brand builds a series of sensuous capillary purrs into a climax of flutter-tongued plunger tones that surmount focused guitar runs and droning electronics.

The former tune finds her using circular treble tones and lip-blubbering plunger digressions to dovetail with percussion slaps and the bare hint of arco bowing. Elsewhere her jocular brays and snorts mesh with rapid knob-twisting to germinate quivering parallel reverberations.

Sperry’s unexpected death means that this one-off aggregation can’t be reconstituted. The CD itself, however, is both an impressive memorial, as well as a bittersweet souvenir of Brand’s and the other players’ in-the-moment interactions.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Naomi Naomi 2. Christy Christy 3. Christie Christie 4. Twiggy Twiggy 5. Tyra Tyra 6. Stephanie Stephanie 7. Cindy Cindy 8. Iman Iman 9. Kate Kate 10. Kathy Kathy 11. Elle Elle 12. Linda Linda 13. Claudia Claudia

Personnel: Gail Brand (trombone); John Shiurba (guitar); Matthew Sperry (bass and preparations); Gino Robair (percussion, faux dax, horns, Styrofoam, e-bow snare) and Tim Perkins (laptop)