Free Zone Appleby 2007
psi 08.04

Charting the obscured relationship between traditional and improvised music, three sound explorers from different countries use extended techniques and careful listening to unearth a seldom-explored trajectory to this territory.

Although not one could be defined as a folk musician, American alto saxophonist and clarinetist Ned Rothenberg re-orients the unique sounds of the Japanese shakuiachi for improvised ends; Paolo Angeli adapts the cello-sized, multi-string guitar of his native Sardinia with preparation, extra bridges and electronics; and British saxophonist Evan Parker has at times meshed his playing with contributions from tradition-stylists such as an Italian brass band and a Tuvan throat singer.

Although there are intimations of this admixture in the earlier Parker/Rothenberg and Rothenberg-Angeli duets, Free Zone’s most notable statements arise in the musicians’ six duos. Here the defining track is “Shield (Blue) Trio 4”, which seems to bring every one of their instruments and attachments into play.

Stropping abrasions from the guitarist mix it up with disconnected, arching and reverberating reed textures from both horn men. As the reedists produce contrapuntal volleys and thrusts, Angeli’s legato stings and plucks are joined by snatches of commentary and string orchestra pulses from an appended radio broadcast. Carving out a role as ambient sounds, these electronic-captured interjections provide pointed commentary on the shriveling and scattered reed bites from Parker’s tenor saxophone and Rothenberg’s bass clarinet. Additionally, a bonding ostinato is produced alternately arco or pizzicato since Angeli’s over-sized and prepared instrument is fitted with additional strings that can be bowed as others are picked.

Electronics also brings out suggestions of a third reed which complements or intensifies the program on certain tracks here. Elsewhere, rasgueado guitar runs meet soprano saxophone peeps and cries as clarinet ornamentation completes the trio interface. In other spots, sul ponticello sweeps and strokes on the balanced strings of the Sardinian guitar are followed by Angeli replicating drum-like paradiddles and slaps on his instrument’s wood. One horn man pushes circular breathing to quacking innuendo, while the other slurs and flutter-tongues.

Eventually with “Shield (Blue) Trio 6”, the trio reaches a climax of sorts. Here masses of reed split tone and multiphonics gradually pile on top of one another, until the piping staccato rhythms from Parker’s bond with pointillist jabs of moderato vibrations from Rothenberg. Operating in double counterpoint, the reedists take turns exposing discordant, whistling tones, which are met first by splattered guitar licks and eventually by sul tasto sweeps from Angeli.

Put your so-called World Music preconceptions aside and listen to this session. Divorced from cant and the fetishism of authenticity, this may be how a variation of so-called traditional music will sound in the future.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Shield (Blue) Duo 1 2. Shield (Blue) Duo 2 3. Shield (Blue) Trio 1 4. Shield (Blue) Trio 2 5. Shield (Blue) Trio 3 6. Shield (Blue) Trio 4 7. Shield (Blue) Trio 5 8. Shield (Blue) Trio 6

Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Ned Rothenberg (alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet) and Paolo Angeli (Sardinian guitar and electronics)