October 27, 2010
Dom Minasi/Blaise Siwula
Live at The Matt Bevel Institute
Fasane Hula Punk
Rapid Movement RM079
One guitar, one saxophone and no studio tricks. It’s the essence of simplicity and what’s heard on these CDs. Veteran improvisers all, the unadorned yet audacious sounds only differ in that one pair of players is American and the other from Northern Europe; and that one session was recorded live and the other under studio circumstances.
Moving force behind the Day & Taxi ensemble, over the years soprano saxophonist Christoph Gallio, who lives near Zürich, has expressed his ideas in a variety of musical forms and groupings. His partner in Fasane Hula Punk is Berlin-based guitarist Olaf Rupp, who is equally expressive in solo and group circumstances. Notwithstanding that the other CD was recorded in a Tucson theatre, the players are both New Yorkers. Guitarist Dom Minasi specializes in unexpected arrangements of standard Jazz material, usually in a trio or quartet setting. Meanwhile the long-time organizer of the C.O.M.A. improv sessions, alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula has for years played with numerous American and overseas musicians.
Titling a baker’s dozen of tracks “Improvisation” 1 though 13, Gallio and Rupp express the modus operandi of their stripped-down session. Essentially it’s about mixing the aleatory movements from each player to see what results. Obviously, like all good improvisations, the thought process and potential strategy is in place before the first sound is heard. On the final duet, for instance, frail, barely-there aviary trills from Gallio are sympathetically colored with Rupp’s twisted and connective licks, until the saxophonist’s flat-line air expelling gives way to strident single-note shrills and a final whimper. Simultaneously the guitarist adds additional reverberations and thicker strums.
Gallio’s ornithological chirping is also evident on “Improvisation 4”, as the saxophone line advances steadily upwards with bravado squeals and splintered reed bites. Operating in double counterpoint, the guitarist moves chromatically, using sudden stops and slurred fingering to make his point. On the other hand, “Improvisation 9” is built on air-raid-siren-like passages from Gallio, who uses dissonance to continuously widen his vibrato. At the same time, Rupp contrapuntally strums and frails his strings plus beats on the wood of his guitar to accompany the reedist almost literally swallowing his notes.
The most characteristic instance of the duo’s contrapuntal layering however is “Improvisation 2”. This miasmatic interlude encompasses Rupp’s crunching rasgueado, which is as thick and unpredictable as the saxman’s reed bites and tongue stops are irregular and slurred. When the plectrumist turns to metronomic, claw-hammer frails, Gallio introduces split tones and irregular punctuation, gradually downshifting to hash growls. In response, Rupp’s hitherto swelling guitar runs narrow to splintered chording.
If the Gallio/Rupp strategy revels in pure abstraction, Siwula and Minasi’s strategy is more formal. Unlike Rupp and Gallio who have entered in to the realm of pure music, faintly remembered American songbook melodies or Hard Bop classics haunt the seven compositions of Siwula/Minasi, like the shadowy presence of a yet-to-materialize spirit. The duo’s version of sonic deconstruction often depends on tonal references to John Coltrane-like or Thelonious Monk-like lines.
This may sound complicated, but among the extended technique and cerebral atonality the two use, lurking somewhere are variations on unheard themes. On some tunes for example, Siwula’s staccato modes and flutter tonguing interlock with the guitarist’s slurred fingering, which then change to classic rhythm guitar strokes and eventually hard, multi-fingered twangs. As Minasi continues to strum percussively, the saxophonist advances from parrot-like chirps to ghostly note titters. Many conclusions include recapping the heads with a further theme variation as the codas.
To cite another example, “The Vampire’s Revenge”, a Minasi composition, expands this, with a mid-point interlude from the guitarist which sounds as if it’s a power-ballad looking for a Broadway show in which to roost. Using colors and modulations, Minasi caresses the descriptive obbligato in such a fashion that when, in due course, the saxophonist trades his initial spiky intonation for tongue fluttering chromatic lines he too seems to be searching for lyrics that would fit the melody. Eventually however he settles for slurs, cries and a final tongue slap.
Should avant-gardism be defined in their improvising, it’s linked to Siwula’s instrument operations, as on his own “King Tut” and other places. Like an apocryphal Energy Music saxophonist, he plays and plays and then plays some more. Of course in a duo situation his collection of snorts, split tones and tongue slaps seems less intimidating when Minasi’s frails, snaps and pitter-pattering keep the lines chromatic. Plus on this tune the two reach a crescendo where both play the same extended allegro line and conclude with a broken-octave exchange.
Approaching these duo sessions with the initiative to bring as many themes, variations and extensions to the tracks, both duos have created notable examples of two- person sonic art.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Fasane: 1. Improvisation 1 2. Improvisation 2 3. Improvisation 3 4. Improvisation 4 5. Improvisation 5 6. Improvisation 6 7. Improvisation 7 8. Improvisation 8 9. Improvisation 9 Improvisation 9 10. Improvisation 10 11. Improvisation 11 12. Improvisation 12 13. Improvisation 13
Personnel: Fasane: Chrisotph Gallio (soprano saxophone) and Olaf Rupp (guitar)
Track Listing: Live: 1. Tendencies in Tandem 2. The Vampire’s Revenge 3. Circle Down 4. Strange 5. King Tut 6. What Monk 7. The Day After Next
Personnel: Live: Blaise Siwula (alto saxophone) and Dom Minasi (guitar)