Radio I-Ching

Last Kind Words
Resonant Music 002

More than 25 years after Rock fame – or is it infamy? – the drummer from Manhattan’s uncompromising No Wave band, The Bush Tetras, and the saxophonist from Toronto’s New-Wave hit makers Martha and the Muffins unite for a memorable CD.

Happily Punk Jazz isn’t on show from percussionist Dee Pop, reedist Any Haas and string player Don Fiorino – possible rocker past unknown – but a unique form of Roots Improv. Tunes range from “Brother Can You Spare A Dime” and the title blues to “Walk on Gilded Splinters” and Ellingtonia”. Haas plays fife, morsing (Jew’s harp), alto saxophone and electronics, while Fiorino moves among guitar, lap steel, banjo and lotar (Berber lute).

The most effective use of the ethnic instruments comes on “Morsing Code”. An Africanized jam, the andante end product is percussive and hypnotic, with thick picking from the lotar, rubber-band like twanging from the morsing and cross patterned drum rhythms.

As for roots music, atypical instrumentation and conceptions are transformative not imitative. Melodic saxophone smears face claw-hammer banjo picking on “The Mooch” while disconnected flams focus the percussion. The basic poignancy of “…Dime” is emphasized in Haas’ warbling arpeggios as Fiorino alternates guitar frailing and flat picking. A penetrating version of “Caravan’ is all brittle reed trills and knob-twisting electronic whooshes.

Most illustrative, the long version of “Last Kind Words” eventually recaps the theme, but first features Pop’s blunt cross sticking and harsh fuzz tones from the guitarist. Electronic extensions allow the saxophonist’s melismatic flutter-tonguing to intersect contrapuntally with a smooth secondary reed line.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 331