June 13, 2009
Tony Dryer/Jacob Felix Heule/Jacob Lindsay
Idea of West
Creative Sources CS 132 CD
Multikulti Project MPI 003
Staple of Dixieland and Swing Era combos, clarinet-led trios have had to wait for the liberating climate of POMO Free Music to become prevalent again. Not that any two are identical. Despite the instrumentation for instance, these two reed-bass-drum combos – one American and one Polish – clearly demonstrate that imagination is the only restraint on creativity. Although lacking a chordal instrument, neither is limited in any way.
Consisting of Waclaw Zimpel on clarinet and bass clarinet, bassist Wojtek Traczyk and drummer Robert Rasz, the Polish band leans more towards jazz – confirmed by the inclusion of tunes by Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, as well as one of the rock band Nirvana. You would also expect similar Grunge influences on the other band, since drummer Jacob Felix Heule and bassist Tony Dryer also perform as a brutal improv/grind duo called Ettrick. However the two have also worked in freer situations with experimenters like drummer Weasel Walter. Furthermore the third member – clarinetist and bass clarinetist Jacob Lindsay – is at home in both improvised and notated experimental music situations with improvisers such as bassist Damon Smith,
Taking off from these influences Ideas of West is more concerned with sound painting then swinging. Meanwhile, as a trio, Zimpel/Traczyk/Rasz has involved themselves in cutting edge improv, playing with another Bay area reedman, Aram Shelton. Both drummer and clarinetist have been in bands led by saxophonist Miko1aj Trzaska, while Zimpel was part of Clarinet Summit featuring German reed man Theo Jorgensmann.
Reconstituting the Dolphy and Coleman lines on The Light, the Polish trio works up from the bottom by contrasting walking bass parts with disconnected drum splashes, then fragmenting the theme at transitional points. On “Straight Up and Down” Zimpel peeps and shrills the melody on top of broken-octave bass accompaniment and percussion ratamacues and rebounds. “Lonely Woman” becomes similarly opaque with the theme outlined in thick double bass pumps and dramatic tongue lunges from Zimpel until sul tasto string sluices surround the melody, quieting it to a hushed diminuendo.
On the other hand, “Drugie zabicie psa” – composed by the clarinetist with no translation provided – is all methodical string reverb, rim shots and understated reed patterning. Restrained in the exposition, Zimpel’s playing stays languendo, but he opens up the tune with whistles, understated breaths and slurs. Meantime Rasz outputs blunt drags and paradiddles and Traczyk thick double stopping.
The bassist’s “Mama z Katmandu” – “mother at the mountain” perhaps? – starts off with a funky backbeat from the bassist and drummer and what sounds like Zimpel distorting the melody with a melodica or another electronic woodwind. The rhythm section maintains a constant pulsation, as the clarinetist descends into the chalumeau register while intensely trilling a moderato tone that links to Tony Scott’s Bop period.
No suggestion of Scott or other earlier jazz clarinetists can be heard on Idea of West. Reed line attribution only goes back as far as Jimmy Giuffre in the 1960s, with an overlay of airy and atonal stylists such as Berlin’s Wolfgang Fuchs figuring in Lindsay’s work as well. Divergence between the Polish and American trios’ approaches is evident on the Yanks’ track which involuntarily appropriates the other CD’s title: “Light from another Light”. While Zimpel deals in medley and notes, Lindsay confines himself to the respiration of flat-line low pitches. Producing blurry, splintered air, his wide-bore solo interlocks with ceremonial gong rattling and raw cymbal scrapes from Heule and single-string strokes from Dryer.
Supple in their connection and tough in their output, the string-and-percussion duo never touches on funk beats or clichéd time-keeping, but instead fades in and out of contrapuntal partnership with Lindsay’s polyphonic tongue slaps and stops. Witness their connection on “Before There Was Mass” and “As I Said That Them Became” – with titles that actually sound as if they were hurriedly translated from Polish. Based on a composition by Heule, the later tune builds up from blunt, hard drum beats and sul ponticello string sweeps to a solid, cascading almost organ-like contralto line from Lindsay, then cymbal scuffs and jagged bass runs are added. Cumulating in miasmatic, crackling timbres, the track ends with a drum pop. The first number displays similar intimations of ring-modulator-like clangs as sibilant, vibrating nodes from the clarinetist escalate to quivering lip bubbles and throat growls from Lindsay, accompanied by the intermittent cohesion of tremolo pulses from Dryer and faint bell-ringing from Heule.
Fascinating and individual approaches to producing multi textures from only three instruments, each CD is equally satisfying.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Light: 1. Intro 2. Mama z Katmandu 3. The Light 4. Straight Up And Down 5. Drugie zabicie psa 6. Recall 7. Lonely Woman 8. J20, 19-23 9. Where Did You Sleep Last Night (My Girl)
Personnel: Light: Waclaw Zimpel (clarinet and bass clarinet); Wojtek Traczyk (bass) and Robert Rasz (drums)
Track Listing: West: 1. In Order to Reroute the Wind 2. Before There Was Mass 3. There is an Opposition Together 4. Light from another Light 5. As I Said That Them Became 6. Meant and Memory
Personnel: West: Jacob Lindsay (clarinet and bass clarinet); Tony Dryer (bass) and Jacob Felix Heule (drums)