Ornate Lightning
Konnex KCD 5237

By Ken Waxman

Continuing his series of duets with guitarists, which included Dom Minasi and Carsten Radtke, saxophonist and clarinetist Blaise Siwula stays true to his free-improv ethos on this date with Tampa, Fla.-resident John Gilbert, who claims an equal fascination with microtonalism and Death Metal.

Happily the latter style stays unexplored on the eight spontaneous tracks here, as Siwula, long-time curator of the C.O.M.A. improvised music series, demonstrates the adaptability which allows him to improvise with nearly anyone at the weekly ABC-No Rio sessions. Employing a light vibrato and constricted tone, Siwula’s playing is memorable in that gets his message across by implying rather than wallowing in emotion. Following the same approach, Gilbert is sure to disappoint errant Heavy Metalers, deliberately turning his amp down to near-acoustic properties, adding spidery fills or finger-picked licks to Siwula’s note stuttering and reed biting.

“Turned Time in Retrograde” for instance, finds Siwula’s saxophone honks and flattement accelerating to a staccato interface, with Gilbert’s dobro-like twangs which first chase then complement the reed work. Warmer-toned on clarinet, the veteran player’s glissandi stretch upwards to a roughened lyricism that perfectly matches the guitarist’s slurred fingering and ringing strokes. When the clarinet’s melodic cadences on “People Never Met Passing” are met with an obbligato of heavier down strokes from the guitarist, the enigmatic title is definitely negated.

Reversed as well is the sentiment described in the CD’s title, which roughly translates as “ornate lightning”. Siwula’s and Gilbert’s interaction does result is lightning-quick musical illumination. But their impressive, bare-bones presentation is anything but ornate.

Tracks: Orange Sails; People Never Met Passing; 4 Challenges Can Count; Turned Time in Retrograde; Continual A Rise; Can’t See The Fine Print; Dream State Relevance; Dot Dot be Dot …

Personnel: Blaise Siwula: alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet; John Gilbert: guitar

—For All About Jazz New York October 2010