Samuel Blaser Quartet

As The Sea
hatOLOGY 718

Garchik/Sacks/Ambrosio/Sperrazza

40Twenty

Yeah Yeah Records YY 0004

Extending the wide reach necessary to play their instrument with an equally ample range of ideas and skills, trombonists Samuel Blaser of Switzerland and New York’s Jacob Garchik confirm with these CDs that that the evolution of imaginative brass playing continues.

Blaser, whose experience encompasses working with other enlightened players like Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre and American drummer Gerry Hemingway, has composed a four-part suite to show off his prowess and that of his combo, featuring French guitarist Marc Ducret, Swiss bassist Bänz Oester and American drummer Gerald Cleaver. All-American and with a name that references the grueling club gigs of the 1950s, 40Twenty is a co-op quartet which highlights the improvisational and compositional muscle of all its members which include Jacob Garchik on trombone, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.

The four, who have racked up impressive credentials working with everyone from alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (Garchik), bassist Eivind Opsvik (Sacks) and pianist James Williams (Sperrazza), to various Afro/Cuban bands (Ambrosio), create a fast-moving imaginary club set which slides from rhythm pieces to ballads and back again. On the whole the band works in a generalized FreeBop atmosphere, but with additional antecedents.

For instance on the Sperrazza-composed “Soon Enough”, a moderato paced trombone showcase, Garchik’s glottal and moderato slide expansions seem to relate to the precision work of a stylist such as JJ Johnson, with Sacks shadowing him with low-frequency comping and the composer alternately splashing cymbals or tapping out a marital beat. Sacks’ loping “Jan 20” on the other hand emphasizes the trombonist’s command of slippery snorts à la Roswell Rudd, the better to blend with the pianist’s Herbie Nichols-style exposition. As Sacks emphasizes jittery runs and keyboard jabs are suspended over walking bass and drum rattles, both ‘bone and keys hold onto the theme.

There are more surprising asides throughout. Ambrosio solidifies his lines to slap and sway or expose low-pitched solos, while keyboard interpolations range from mere key dusting to power key clipping. Garchik’s “Gi”, another essay in rhythmic slip-sliding, features the trombonist both with full open-horn and with thinner breaths, mixing it up with piano note clusters; while the bassist’s “MajorEe MinorEe” is a complete change of pace. Featuring some of Sacks’ strongest playing, the keyboard narrative is alive with double jumps and tremolo pacing. In contrast, after Garchik demonstrates that an unhurried swing line can include sputtering triplets, tongue stops and sprays; his trombone line diverges to sound out a theme close to “Around the World in 80 Days” as the others continue with straight-ahead swing.

Now Berlin-based, Blaser is equally brass proficient. All the same, his more than 51-minute invention is concerned with bringing in varied compositional motifs ranging from modal Jazz to Heavy Metal shredding, plus a tuba obbligato copped from Wagner’s Siegfried. The latter provided the basis on which “Part 1” rests, although there are no overt, so-called classical references. As it happens the tension-release that illuminates that track is between appropriately basso-pitched lowing from Blaser and distorted flanges and staccato curved lines from Ducret, known for his gigs with Tim Berne. Inventive Cleaver provides measured thumps and rim-shot rumbles while Oester, who has also worked with Favre and Hemingway, stabilizes the narrative with vibrating intensity.

The climatic “As The Sea Part 3” is initially devoted to the challenges posed to each man. Oester’s staccato bass solo includes slides up and down the strings with a guitarist’s facility. Cleaver, one of New York’s busiest drummers, demonstrates the reasons why with his overwhelming press rolls. And then the trombonist’s centered slide guffaws presages a sinewy and polyrhythmic group explosion. The denouncement introduces a show-down between the bassist’s quivering string clicks and the guitarist’s trebly spikiness that finally locks into place.

Further distorted multi-effects from Ducret and an impenetrable bass pulse helps drive the program to a linear and sympathetic finale. But not before the composer has let loose with some spectacular flutter tonguing plus an exposition of grace notes that are stretched to the nth degree without breaking.

While As The Sea is more resolute and formally oriented compared to 40Twenty relaxed interface, it also exposes a greater number of dissonant strategies. Either high quality session confirms the residual power of trombone-featured combo,

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: As: 1. As The Sea Part 1 2. As The Sea Part 2 3. As The Sea Part 3 4. As The Sea Part 4

Personnel: As: Samuel Blaser (trombone); Marc Ducret (guitar); Bänz Oester (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)

Track Listing: 40: 1. Jan 20 2. Gi 3. Plainchant 4. Soon Enough 5. One Five 6. MajorEe MinorEe

Personnel: 40: Jacob Garchik (trombone); Jacob Sacks (piano); David Ambrosio (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)