Tony Bevan/Joe Morris/Tony Buck/Dominic Lash

Tony-Joe Bucklash
Foghorn FOGCD 016

NoReduce

Jaywalkin’

nWog Records NWOG 005

Pumped up past the expected, despite the common saxophone-guitar-bass-drums configuration are these CDs. Although each features an American playing with a European unit, the path to quality is achieved by different routes.

In one case perhaps visiting Boston guitarist Joe Morris could be the spark plug for the extended go-for-broke improvising on Tony-Joe Bucklash, since the three other British players have singly and together frequently recorded outstanding work in the past. Besides Morris, known for his association with the likes of bassist William Parker and saxophonist Joe Maneri, Oxford-based reedist Tony Bevan is not only one of the (few) masters of the bass saxophone, but equally proficient on tenor and soprano. Berlin-based Aussie drummer Tony Buck is a long-time member of the Necks; while bassist Dominic Lash is busy in both New York and London. Rather than Morris being the only special guest, this CD also marks the first recorded meeting by Bevan with both bassist and drummer.

Co-op band NoReduce on the other hand is a working group featuring three Swiss musicians and a New Yorker drummer, recorded in New York. Again, while drummer Nasheet Waits has gigged with everyone from pianist Jason Moran to saxophonist Sam Rivers, the young Europeans have extensive experience as well. A member of the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra, tenor saxophonist Christoph Irniger leads his own bands and works in many others. Bassist Raffaele Bossard has played with alto saxophonist Tobias Meier among others, while guitarist Dave Gisler works in many contexts.

Gisler doesn’t have the distinctive style of a Morris, yet in many ways his plasticity which range from methodical licks to buzzy lead guitar-like motions help the band’s slowly gelling definition. For instance his continuous chording sets the mood on “Playground” along with clip-clop drumming and a walking bass line. By the time Gisler introduces spidery double-string runs, the saxophonist has hardened the tone of his hitherto wispy blowing to expose repeated slurs which are met by guitar fills and cymbal crashes. There’s a similar strategy at work on “The Slope”, but it’s Bossard’s power plucks and Watts’ rolling drags and ratamacues which define the exposition. Meanwhile sharp guitar quivers and saxophone vibratos creating rougher theme variations, until the drummer’s climatic pops plus cymbal slaps propel the improvisation back to the head. On the other hand, “Morningside Road” features near-ethereal guitar and sax harmonies that before they circle back to linear reed sighs and guitar fills at the finale, open up the piece to staccato split tones from Irniger and tough bounces from the drummer.

If the still embryonic NoReduce suggests earlier quartet antecedents from Stan Getz and Jimmy Raney to John Coltrane and Elvin Jones as it defines its identity, the other quartet is fully committed to a Free Music ethos, but constructs an original identity within the genre. Pushing aside a tendency to overdo freneticism with bugle-call-like riffs from Bevan, strained tremors from Morris and protracted percussion emphasis, the four carve a polyphonic narrative from inchoate expansions by blending their parts in parallel patterning.

The quartet attains its most profound confluence on the more-than 35 minute “Out of the Rising Sun”. With Lash’s buzzing string slices and Buck’s crashes and bounces as a backdrop, Morris’ stressed strums test the limits of guitar experience, adding arpeggiated runs and hand pumps to his exposition. Meanwhile Bevan vibrates tenor glisses that are as abstract as they are stressed. Initially in broken octave concordance with the reed man, as the guitarist’s slurred fingering deconstructs his lines so they become narrower and spikier, Bevan counters with his big gun: the bass saxophone. Percussive, persuasive and pummeling his wind-breaking chalumeau and tree-top-high altissimo intensity repeatedly makes anything that could have been output by pioneering R&B honkers Leo Parker or Paul Williams seems like polite background music. Buck’s cymbal shattering and Lash’s brawny pumps join the multiphonic reed-masticator, nearly rendering the guitarist inaudible. When Morris finally asserts himself again his pile-driver plinks add the needed impetus to make the ending distinctive and satisfactorily collegial.

A fine first effort, Jaywalkin’ offer some perceptive tracks and solos, but lacks the self-possessed identity that a veteran troupe would have. If the band members stick together it will come. As for Tony-Joe Bucklash, this meeting is a representative instance of free-for-all improvising. But the same proviso stands. If the four can convene more frequently the result will probably even put this first-rate disc in the shade.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Tony-Joe: 1. Out of the Rising Sun 2. Into the Rising Sun

Personnel: Tony-Joe: Tony Bevan (soprano, tenor and bass saxophones); Joe Morris (guitar); Dominic Lash (bass) and Tony Buck (drums)

Track Listing: Jaywalkin: 1. Endangered 2. The Slope 3. Playground 4. Far Away But Close Enough 5. Dope Factory 6. Jaywalkin’ 7. Morningside Road 8. The Mouse

Personnel: Jaywalkin: Christoph Irniger (tenor saxophone); Dave Gisler (guitar); Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums)