December 5, 2011
Tower Vol. 2
Ayler Records AYLCD 119
By Ken Waxman
Fraternal, but not identical twin to French guitarist Marc Ducret’s Tower Vol. 1, this CD features him with a completely different cast, yet is just as noteworthy. The only horn is alto saxophonist Tim Berne, whose association with Ducret goes back 15 years. Drummer is in-demand Tom Rainey and unparalleled string variations come from fellow Gaul, violinist Dominique Pifarély, who has worked with reedist Louis Sclavis.
Consisting of three, extended – the briefest is nearly 17 minutes – multi-sectional compositions, the quartet operates at a high level throughout. Organic and polyphonic, the musical narratives frequently depend on textural similarities among the three lead instruments as Rainey stays in the background with strokes, pops and bounces.
For instance, “Real Thing #3”, the first and second variation of which are on Vol. 1, finds the fiddler and saxophonist vibrating nearly identical note expansions, with individual identity only obvious as Pifarély jaggedly double-stops and dynamically stretches his lines to almost humanly vocalize alongside Berne’s straightforward ostinato and circular smears. Meantime Ducret’s output turns from scene-setting reverb to downturned strums almost rococo in their decoration.
Ducret’s shifts from folksy to febrile strumming plus Rainey’s positioned strokes mark transitions from one section to another. Subsequently, as on “Sur l’Electricité”, the violinist’s angled and speedy spiccato meets perpendicular guitar distortions. Or on “Softly Her Tower Crumbled in the Sweet Silent Sun”, the continuum is characterized by Morse-code-like stopping from the fiddler, ragged frails and distorted flanges from the guitarist plus yakety sax-like overblowing from Berne, all evolving in parallel, yet complementary lines.
This wordy-titled, concluding track ends with satisfying and lyrical cohesiveness. One would expect that if there is yet another Tower sequel it will offer as many pleasant surprises as volumes 1 and 2.
Tracks: Sur l’Electricité; Real Thing #3; Softly Her Tower Crumbled in the Sweet Silent Sun
Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Marc Ducret: electric guitar; Dominique Pifarély: violin; Tom Rainey: drums
—For New York City Jazz Record December 2011