Axel Dörner-Diego Chamy

What Matters to Ali
C3R Records C3R 012

When is percussion like brass? When both are used as sound sources rather than designated instruments. That’s what German trumpeter Axel Dörner and Argentinean percussionist Diego Chamy do on this intriguing, nearly 46-minute single improvisation recorded in their shared residence of Berlin.

Segmented by silences and passages that work up to fortissimo, the CD was took place at Dörner’s house, and at points during the minimalist piece instrumental tones are underlined by voices mumbling in Spanish. For the first part of the meeting the drummer, who is also involved with sound poetry and video projects, limits himself to singular strikes on a bell. Meanwhile the trumpeter, who specializes in non-traditional brass timbres, moves from buzzing bee-like tremolos to unadorned air blown through his lead pipe to a crescendo of discordant blats and puffs.

Following a passage that suggests oxygen is being pulled from the mouthpiece back into Dörner’s throat, the brassman finally acknowledge his partner by swelling his output when Chamy’s bell pealing accelerates from adagio to andante. Antipodal textures turn to nearly indistinguishable passages when Chamy strokes a drum top and Dörner’s mutes his capillary purring. The piece’s final variant is more distinctive as the percussionist adds tubular bells, a bass drum and a floor tom to the mix – so that the drum thumps and resulting echoes alternate with the trumpeter’s stop-time spittle-encrusted braying in a weird sort of double counterpoint. Discursive in the finale, brass air expelling becomes more abstract and diffuse and the rhythm intermittent and irregular. What Matters to Ali reflects mood not instrumental virtuosity.

— Ken Waxman

In MusicWorks Issue #101