Jason Roebke & Tobias Delius

NotTwo MW 881-2

Dominic Lash-Ricardo Tejero

Southville, Summer.

Clamshell CR 11

Balancing the timbres of a reed instrument with only a double bass’s four strings can be a sticky proposition – especially if the result is an all-improvised program. That hasn’t stopped many excellent musicians from attempting the feat though, including the multi-country duos featured here. During a series of instant compositions, the Panoramic duo sticks a little closer to more common Jazz motifs, while the Southville two are more involved with pure experimentation. Overall though, the latter create a more affecting program.

Recorded in Chicago, the eight tracks on Panoramic partner local bassist Jason Roebke, best-known for his work with the likes of cornetist Rob Mazurek, with Berlin-based clarinet and tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius, who has worked with the ICP Orchestra. Recorded in Bristol UK about a year later, Southville, Summer unites British bassist Dominic Lash, who has worked with the likes of saxophonists Evan Parker and John Butcher, with Madrid-born, London-resident Ricardo Tejero, who plays tenor saxophone, clarinet and whistles here and has worked with pianist Alexander Hawkins.

Although Lash and Tejero have been performing together regularly since 2007, the other CD appears to be one of Roebke’s and Delius’ infrequent meetings. That shouldn’t make a difference. In Jazz, brilliant disks often result from ad-hoc interactions. And, in fact, the two get things off to a hopeful start on “Cuttlefish” with rousing walking from the bassist and Delius coloring the theme as he curves around the other’s lines with flutter tonguing, snorts and slurs. Later on, especially on the extended tracks, Delius varies his cubist-like tone deconstruction on tenor saxophone with bedrock, breathy tones that bring to mind low-pitched masters like Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster.

Unfortunately a pall of sameness cloaks many of the other tracks. The powerful playing may be taken adagio and moderato, but too often the interface become lugubrious. That arises even though the bassist varies his textures with pops and knife-like string-slashing – as well as the noticeable ability to maintain the tempo while adding decorations at will – while the reed man uses everything from glossalalia to aviary-like altissimo. Harsh staccato vibrations provide excitement in small does, but at nearly one hour the CD seems even longer.

Only slightly shorter in length, Southville Summer’s seven tracks use more sonic devices to vary the program. Tejero’s saxophone output maintains a story-telling linearity, while encompassing motifs as different as extended watery slurps or stuttering textural breakdowns. Lash’s thick power pumps constantly ground the interaction, but arpeggiated runs and buzzing string distortions decorate or provide independent responses to the reed excursions.

A track such as “Dongola” exposes the pure physicality of the duo with Lash’s scratched strings echoing with high-pitched stridency and Tejero’s clarinet peeping. The mercurial meeting doesn’t swing so much as rush forward, yet as playing strategies from each loosen into glissandi, a contrast is introduced with the bassist providing a continuum as reedist bites shatter the narrative. Eventually a staccato connection is established. By “Bangrove”, the final cut, Tejero opens up the atmospheric exposition still further by limiting his solo to strident propulsion generated by whistles, which are matched with speedy arco slices from Lash.

Throughout, the skills of the two make this CD more of an edgy exposition than what is practiced on the Chicago date. Still while the skills of neither duo can be doubted, in these cases it’s evident that additional input from more players or different material would have made both discs sound less like technical exercises and more satisfying all around.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Southville: 1. Comyn 2. Allfoxton 3. Fernleaze 4. Grittleton 5. Dongola 6. Estoril 7. Bangrove

Personnel: Southville: Ricardo Tejero (tenor saxophone, clarinet and whistles) and Dominic Lash (bass)

Track Listing: Panoramic: 1. Cuttlefish 2. On the Moon 3. Which Goose 4. G-Bug 5.

Convolvulaceae 6. Panther 7. No Night 8. Punkin

Personnel: Panoramic: Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Jason Roebke (bass)