Hildegard Kleeb/Roland Dahinden

Recall Pollock
Leo Records CD LR 651

Acclaimed for their interpretation of contemporary notated music, trombonist Roland Dahinden and pianist Hildegard Kleeb, both Swiss, also work with improvised music and musicians, most prominently Anthony Braxton. Their improv skill is confirmed by the 14 congenial tracks on this CD all inspired by the work of American action painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). Although Pollock was reportedly Dixieland fan, his canvases have served as an inspiration for composers like Morton Feldman as well as used to illustrate the unpredictability of avant-garde Jazz, most famously as the cover image for Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz LP.

With numerical titles there’s no indication of which of the painter’s work(s) inspired this brass-piano duo, but these atonal exercises are obviously personal. While extended brass techniques and internal and external piano development are prevalent throughout there’s no hint of the airy and intermittent preciousness which many so-called classical composers use to reflect modern art. Nor in their very Swiss tranquility is there realization of the rhythmic violence that improvisers are supposed to approximate when reflecting action painting.

Instead Kleeb and Dahinden are most concerned with pacing – that’s slow but never somnolent – but which also includes enough tremolo and staccato tones to provide a spiky interface. For instance the trombone output on “Recall Pollock 5” resembles that of a person yawning in the background as in the foreground the pianist repeatedly plucks the strings in such a deliberate manner that the outcome resounds along the length of the soundboard. When Dahinden finally digs into timbral expression, Kleeb’s playing reverses to become strangely detached.

“Recall Pollock 8” on the other hand, is almost an étude, with the piano part darting from glissandi to layered syncopation and the trombonist figuratively joggling to keep up. Eventually as his capillary cries and bites turn to furry insouciance, the duo’s playing slows down to measured indolence.

Elsewhere, depending on the mood of the moment, Dahinden’s lines are as apt to become spacious guttural excavations as minute metallic tongue scratches; while Kleeb’s sometimes discursive, sometime hide-and seek piano patterning can be lushly balladic or atonally skittering. Separated by four other tracks, “Recall Pollock 3” and “Recall Pollock 3_2” seem only to be connected by kinetic extended techniques from each protagonist. Moving from a shaped chamber-music-style accompaniment, the pianist eventually bests the trombonist’s tongue-stuttering and muted breaths with a combination of single key pressure and plucked strings on the first variant. On the second, Dahinden attains a mellow cello-like tone only after his tremolo brays and air sucking have been percussively pummeled by Kleeb’s pedal positioning, which she intensifies with pressure on the instrument’s wooden frame.

Abstract enough to test the mettle and much else of the two instrumentalists, the cohesive extensions add just enough innovation to this trombone-piano meeting to create a fascinating listen – which probably also results in a distinctive concert program.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Recall Pollock 1 2. Recall Pollock 2 3. Recall Pollock 1_2 4. Recall Pollock 2_2 5. Recall Pollock 3 6. Recall Pollock 4 7. Recall Pollock 5 8. Recall Pollock 6 9. Recall Pollock 3_2 10. 7 11. Recall Pollock 8 12. Recall Pollock 9 13. Recall Pollock 10 14. Recall Pollock 11

Personnel: Roland Dahinden (trombone, alphorn and percussion) and Hildegard Kleeb (piano)