Gallio, Voerkel & Frey

Atavistic ALP261CD

Day & Taxi
Percaso Production 23

Nearly 25 years separate these trio sessions, but they confirm the consistent musical aptitude of Swiss saxophonist Christoph Gallio. However, considering the 13 tracks on Tiegel, are all improvisations, whereas the 20 [!] tracks on Out are all his compositions, the discs also track the increased musical sophistication of the Zürich-based reedist.

Tiegel was actually the name of the co-op trio formed by Gallio, and more senior Swiss musicians, Peter K Frey, who plays bass and trombone here, and Urs Voerkel, who improvises on piano and drums. That band lasted until 1983. In 1989, after studying in Paris with American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, Gallio formed the oddly-named Day & Taxi trio, which exists to this day. Different bassist and drummers have filled out the band. On Out, his most recent partners are veteran drummer Marco Käppeli and new bassist Christian Weber, who has recorded with multi-reedist Hans Koch and pianist Michel Wintsch. Gallio plays alto as well as soprano saxophone on this CD, while mezzo soprano Sara Maurer guests on two tracks.

This is quite a change from 1981 where then Gallio-associates Frey had been involved with Free Music in Switzerland since the mid-1970s, and Urs Voerkel had been part of a trio with British trombonist Paul Rutherford and German drummer Paul Lovens. Voerkel must have felt right at home then on the few improvisations here where Frey reveals hitherto unheralded talent on trombone.

Contrapuntal and guttural, his output connects with the saxophonist’s harsh double-tonguing, quickly framing Voerkel’s splashes and cross-sticking on unattached cymbals. The drummer’s cyclical piano patterning is featured along with tail-gate ‘bone color on “Improvisation #9”, as Gallio’s choked split tones finally turn to spetrofluctuation, creating brass-band-like colors when combined with Frey’s output. There are other piano forays as well, highlighting the drummer’s metronomic chording and more conventional comping. However, like Maurer’s pleasant, but somewhat mannered vocalizing on the other CD, the game of musical chairs on Tiegel is secondary to the work of the three in standard trio configuration.

Unlike some other pieces, which find the saxman exhaling distracted, near- inaudible peeps and short chirps, the more-than-nine-minute “Improvisation #5” and “Improvisation #8” are notable precursors to Gallio’s future work. On both interestingly enough, his sound is already close to Lacy’s, before he studied with the older American.

Nasally balladic on the first piece, his tone is low key and parlando, involved with a growly, yet microtonal reed investigation as the drummer confines himself to rolls and cymbal pops, and the bassist to fastidious, single-string plucks. When the reedist’s sound hardens for the tune’s final variation, the tempo accelerates as well with string slapping and snare rattling, ending with an extended cymbal resonation.

Frey is most in his element on the second piece, dramatically building up the almost standard jazz line – complete with Art Blakey-like Hard-Bop drumming – with dark overtones from ricocheting bass strings and near-the-peg investigation.

Two-and-one-half decades on, Gallio appears to have been influenced by Lacy’s elegant, art song cycles as well as his matchless tones. Although seven tracks count in at one minute or less, Gallio also seems to have picked up a Ken Vandermark-styled tendency to dedicate nearly every track to some person or another. Furthermore, with experience that has now had him play with musicians as disparate as American drummer Rashied Ali and British sound-singer Phil Minton, Gallio, who also trained as a visual artist, creates themes here that reference experimental sounds, song cycles Harmolodics, Energy Music and more conventional jazz and New music forms. Sometimes, as on “Strong Six”, the performance even consists of a blues miniature played on alto saxophone.

“Hearts”, the more-than-6½-minute longest track, with its heavily vibrated saxophone lines, is a celebratory dedication to Lacy. Operating on top of four-square bass lines and adagio stops from Weber, and a low-key drum rumble from Käppeli, Gallio varies his textures from smooth, interactive pecking to guttural, mucousy, hard split tones.

In contrast, “Love”, with minimal bass and drum backing finds the alto saxophonist framing a centre section of post-Aylerian squeals and split tones with legato, romantic and fanciful simple lines. “Joy”, mixes Energy Music and Harmolodics, as Dancing In Your Head-like slap bass plus doubled flam and pops from the drummer, evolve in triple counterpoint with Gallio spinning and squeaking elongated textures that feature irregular vibrato.

Finally, there’s “Run”, which scampers along agitato to reflect its title. Again on alto, the saxophonist limits his tongue-slapping and spitting to the finale, instead constructing soulful slurs that use tremolo intensity vibrato to contrapuntally ring-around-the-Rosie with Käppeli’s wood-block clips, rolling snare-drum bounces and double tempo ruffs and rebounds – plus Weber’s allegro bass echoes.

Engaging in both miniature and regular-sized compositions, Gallio proves himself poster boy for of 21st Century accommodation to many styles and musics. Still, like the other CD, Out just misses first rank by the great number and brevity of its tunes. Next time out, perhaps collecting compositional thoughts for a 10-to-20-minute stretch may be a goal.

— Ken Waxman


Track Listing: Out: l. Ara 2. Lost 3. Boat 4. New Music* 5. Do Re Mi Ma Do 6. Strong Six 7. U E I O Anne 8. Walter’s Year of the Years 9. Love 10. Calypso 11. Double Mind 12. Joy 13. Go 14. Wolke 15. Trust 16. Claudia & Ernst im Ernst 17. Run 18. Curtains Dream* 19. Africa 20. Hearts

Personnel: Out: Christoph Gallio (alto and saxophones); Christian Weber (bass); Marco Käppeli (drums) and Sara Maurer (mezzo soprano)*

Track Listing: Tiegel: 1. Improvisation #1 2.Improvisation #2 3. Improvisation #3 4. Improvisation #4 5. Improvisation #5 6. Improvisation #6 7. Improvisation #7 8. Improvisation #8 9. Improvisation #9 10. Improvisation #10 11. Improvisation #11 12.

Improvisation #12 13. Improvisation #13

Personnel: Tiegel: Christoph Gallio (soprano saxophone); Peter K Frey (bass and trombone) and Urs Voerkel (piano and drums)