The Stone Quartet

DMG @ The Stone - Vol 1.
DMG/ARC-0721

Staggeringly producing enough tonal colors and timbral delineations to suggest a much larger group, the Stone Quartet has created an improvisational opus with this CD – a faithful reproduction of a single set the ensemble played in the New York performance space.

This comprehensive exhibit of remarkable polyphony should come as no surprise, since the band consists of four innovators of in-the-moment music-making: Americans trumpeter Roy Campbell violist Mat Maneri and pianist Marilyn Crispell, plus French bassist Joëlle Léandre. Shorter, intuitive Maneri-Léandre and Campbell-Crispell duets are sandwich between substantial, extended quartet interactions that define the group’s strengths.

Most spectacular are the more than 25 minutes the four spend probing the extremes of the initial improvisation. Shaded and slithering Campbell’s capillary output alternately soars with nearly weightless grace notes or shakes with fulsome vibrations that are seconded by double-stopping from the strings. In double counterpoint with one another, Maneri offers up high-pitched sul tasto lines while Léandre thumps power chords in the middle, then moves into subterranean registers. Foreshortening high frequency, agitato note clusters, Crispell displaces metronomic comping for the trickle of individual notes that fuse with the bassist’s focused shuffle bowing as a summation.

Deep pitches intermingle on the conclusive “Part 4”, as the bassist’s woody, thick-vibrated thwacks shadow Campbell’s growls which almost replicate bass clarinet tonguing. Yet the quartet proves its ingenuity on the track’s final variation where fluid spiccato strings, nimble brass slurs and chiming piano chords outline a folksy, lively and charming melody.

Subtitled “Volume 1”, the second volume of this session will be eagerly awaited.

— Ken Waxman

— In MusicWorks Issue #102