Robert Dick and Ursel Schlicht

Nemu Records nemu 002

By Ken Waxman

Virtuosi on their respective instruments, American flautist Robert Dick and German pianist Ursel Schlicht meld experiences with improvised and notated sounds on this session, idiosyncratically amending two of music’s most venerable timbres.

Although the CD impresses overall, the weakest track is Dick’s solo, “Piece in a Gamelan Style”. Perhaps the excessively formalist outing is a reminder that the flautist’s background is so-called classical, while the pianist’s is in improvisation. Schlicht’s collaborators include the likes of trombonist Steve Swell, while Dick has recorded with the Soldier String Quartet.

As a duo each contributes complementary skills, making the other selections unpretentious, though no less serious. Leading to a scherzo finale, “Fragments” builds up to it with tough arpeggios from the pianist and bitten-off, pitch-sliding timbres from the flautist – after a solo piano exposition of short, spiky grace notes and surging crescendos. Adagio and tremolo, “Lapis Blues”, with Schlicht on prepared piano and Dick on flute with a timbre-altering attachment, allows the two to transform bird-like twitters and tongue slaps plus strummed chords and reflective taps on the piano’s internal strings so that the instruments take on the properties of dizi and guzheng respectively.

“Emergence”, an instant composition, conclusively validates the teamwork. After Schlicht’s contrapuntal note pressure and bass clef pounding meet Dick’s cistern-deep vibrations, taut, circular flute timbres adumbrate crab-walking keyboard dynamics that elicit sympathetic vibrations from within the instrument.

Defined as a luminous surface layer of the sun, the title reflects both the properties of the CD itself and the playing preserved on it.

In MusicWorks Issue #98