August 30, 2009
Blaise Siwula & Carsten Radtke
Konnex KCD 5206
Sascha Demand/Hannes Wienert
Sirenen & Blüten
Creative Sources CS 125 CD
Unlike the glossy horn-guitar duos of the past involving Zoot Sims and Joe Pass, for instance, these CDs featuring three Germans and an American eviscerating the flaccid mawkishness inherent in this formation to create something more meaningful. Yet each does so in a different way.
Guitarist Sascha Demand and reed and brass experimenter Hannes Wienert’s CD offers 17 tracks in 30 minutes that abrasively expose the extremes of strings and metal with Teutonic conviction With a shared interest in Zen Buddhism, on the other hand, German guitarist Carsten Radtke and American saxophonist Blaise Siwula, take almost twice as much time on half as many tracks to reach echoing concordance that’s often lyrical without being sentimental.
Eschewing rhythmic thrust or melodic story-telling, Demand and Wienert at points treat each tune as a laboratory experiment – advancing a certain technique for a short time to determine what results; then going on to the next one. A graphic artists as well as a multi-wind-instrumentalist, Wienert was a member of the Ton-Art Ensemble and has created musical performances involving cooking, music, film and poetry. Co-founder of the Beside the Cage ensemble, Demand curates an improvised music series in Hamburg and is involved in other local groups.
Sirenen & Blüten includes examples of resonance such as chromatic guitar clatter that resembles the clanking of Oriental temple bells; swollen reed vibrations that peal rhythmically as they’re being overblown; defined spetrofluctuation which also encompasses the scraping scuffs of metal along with off-centre brass notes; what could be thick bond paper balled and crumbled beside the mike; and panning electronic interface amplified to intersect with shuddering guitar twangs.
Although each of these brief sonic investigations isolates singular improvisational strategies, wide scope provides more narrative impulses. For instance the final track features Wienert representing not only the notes but their extensions and partials as his glottal punctuation expands and swells. Meanwhile Demand slides, slaps and rattles his strings for additional dissonance. Track #15 suggests that the guitar body has been shoved against Wienert’s tubes setting off jackhammer-like buzzes and cylindrical pulsations. Adding to this atonality, the horn man yodels crying textures through his instrument’s cylindrical body tube.
In contrast to the often accelerating stridency in which Demand and Wienert specialize, the sustained Siwula-Radtke duets are more measured and legato. Surprisingly, the American and the German have followed careers somewhat close to those of Demand and Wienert. Alto and soprano saxophonist Siwula has for years been curating C.O.M.A., an improvised music series in Manhattan, while elsewhere playing with most of the city’s deep underground improvisers, including drummer Marc Edwards and guitarist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut. Following a recent simpatico C.O.M.A. session, Munich-based Radtke and Siwula decided to record. Comfortable with jazz and improvised music, Radtke is best-known for his parallel career, playing New music as part of advanced American and European ensembles.
In a way, the eight duets here are atonal updating of the chromatic cooperation reedist Jimmy Giuffre and guitarist Jim Hall exhibited on the former’s trio compositions in the late 1950s. Contrapuntal and dissonant, each man’s part has to fit ball-and-socket-like for the pieces to work as well as they do.
Radtke’s tonal chording, followed by flat-picking on “Whoz Surprise” for instance, allows Siwula to puff out expressive tongue trills and story-telling theme variants. Sometimes the two play in unison; other times in double counterpoint; while the guitarist’s moderated twangs and picks provide a perfect backdrop for the saxophonist to play what could be replicas of half-remembered ballads or standards. Nonetheless, not one fragment is expressed extensively enough to reveal a familiar melody. Before climaxing with outlined single breaths from Siwula, and clanging contrapuntal runs from Radtke, the tune curves upwards, adding gritty timbres from both, but not enough to disrupt its lyrical content.
Similarly strummed patterns and ringing fills from Radtke scene-set on “It Happened Tomorrow”, with the piece built from connective runs and measures reflected back from one player to the other. Once the interface is established both men play extended choruses of almost identical note clusters, separated only by pitch and dynamics. Basso guitar runs and gradual tempo slowing from the guitarist complete the tune.
Featuring more extensive improvisations that give Siwula space for note caressing as well as glottal punctuation and reed bites – and with Radtke more of a chromatic, player, Projection Zero presents one notable example of the horn-and-guitar duo. More abrasive, Sirenen & Blüten is its equally valid and memorable variant of this sonic conversation.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Sirenen: 1. #1 2. #2 3. #3 4. #4 5. #5 6. #6 7. #7 8. #8 9. #9 10. #10 11. #11 12. #12 13. #13 14. #14 15. #15 16. #16 17. #17 18. #18
Personnel: Sirenen: Hannes Wienert (trumpet, soprano saxophone, trumpsax, sheng and tubes) and Sascha Demand (guitar)
Track Listing: Projection: 1. WuWeiWays 2. Chance Meeting 3. Was It The Eastside? 4. There Are No Goodbyes 5. Whoz Surprise 6. LynBrooklyn 7. If I Saw This 8. It Happened Tomorrow
Personnel: Projection: Blaise Siwula (alto and tenor saxophones) and Carsten Radtke (guitar)