Malcolm Goldstein/Barre Phillips

Live in Puget-Ville
Bab-Ili Lef 07

By Ken Waxman

Astringent chamber improv from two expatriate Americans in their seventies, this CD captures the robust interface that resulted from the first-time meeting between bassist Barre Phillips and violinist Malcolm Goldstein.

Goldstein, who lives in Montreal, and Phillips, who resides in La Provence, France are able to use their cumulative virtuosity to easily stake out distinctive positions throughout these six improvisations. Squeaking and cross-bowing, the fiddler builds up a field of pinched spiccato runs and screeching sul ponticello feints and fades. Maintaining the lower pitches, the bull fiddler’s weighed double counterpoint to this encompasses not only legato, tremolo bowing, but hand manipulation of tremolo breaks and harmonic convergence. Regularly, as well, Phillips strikes the body of his instrument to produce wide, woody resonations, which in other circumstances could come from tuned tympani.

Sometimes, Goldstein’s double-stopped improvisations are expanded with guttural cries or throaty groans, while Phillips strums a pedal point line. Elsewhere, the storm of multiphonics shrilled from the two instruments can resemble irregular reed configurations.

Significantly enough however, among the rasping split tone shrieks and calming, organ-like low-pitch effects is the sense of the duo’s over-riding American roots. Between the violinist’s pizzicato bottleneck-like licks and the bassist’s col legno pops, it’s as if the two are flat picking the guitar and slapping the bass on a rural string band session.

In MusicWorks Issue #100