Weasel Walter-Mary Halvorson-Peter Evans

Electric Fruit
Thirsty Ear THI 57196

By Ken Waxman

Probably one of the few instances in improvised music where a powerful drummer often has to play more assertively to be heard amid the virtuosic and fortissimo sounds from the guitarist and trumpeter, Electric Fruit is a different take on the a jazz trio conception.

For a start the instrumentation is unusual. More distinctively the six tracks here aren’t designed as chops displays but as a way for three talented free-form improvisers to investigate the tonal possibilities of their instruments while aiming for a tripartite blend. Progenitor of aggressive rock-inflected improv with everyone from bassist Damon Smith to saxophonist Marshall Allen, drummer Weasel Walter is more than a backbeat specialist. Guitarist Mary Halvorson flits from folksy duets with violist Jessica Pavone to sophisticated contributions to composer Anthony Braxton’s ensembles. Known for his spectacular work with saxophonist Evan Parker and Mostly Other People do the Killing, trumpeter Peter Evans can apparently play anything and frequently does.

As a result most tunes here feature some variant of Halvorsen’s intense, distorted fills, near-psychedelic thumping and horizontal twangs, matching Evans’ top-of-range brassy trills or growly inner-horn tone evacuations, as Walter ruffs, rolls and drags. At the same time this mixture of the frenetic and the pointillist promotes unique linkages. “The Stench of Cyber-Durian” for instance finds the guitarist’s strumming so rococo that she could be playing a gavotte, and is sympathetically backed by the drummer’s clunks and rat-tat-tats. Meanwhile the trumpeter’s heraldic crescendos provide contrapuntal commentary. Walter solos most extensively on the more than 15½-minute “Metallic Dragon Fruit”, with hollow shell whacking, clave-like concussion, plus bell and snare popping. But his showcase is firmly in sync with Halvorson’s simple flat-picking which splinters and distorts as it climaxes; and Evans’ stentorian snarls, which bring out multiphonic tone extensions and a texture virtually indistinguishable from guitar intonation.

Less frantic interludes would have been welcome. But for spectacle and musicianship, this CD is a stunning debut.

Tracks: Mangosteen 3000 A.D.; The Stench of Cyber-Durian; The Pseudocarp Walks Among Us; Scuppernong Malfunction; Yantok Salak Kapok; Metallic Dragon Fruit

Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Weasel Walter: drums

— For New York City Jazz Record March 2011