Baars/Kneer/Elgart

Give No Quarter
Evil Rabbit Records EER 20

Give No Quarter is a peculiar disc in a good way. Not only does the 13-track session highlight the crafty percussion work of American Bill Elgart, who has been living in Europe since the mid-1970s, but it’s also one of the few times on record that the Netherland’s Ab Baars orients most of his tenor saxophone solos in a harsh Albert Ayler-like manner. Holding everything together is the understated skill of German bassist Meinrad Kneer.

Someone whose first recording was with Paul Bley and Gary Peacock in 1968, Elgart’s elegant rhythm has, since his European relocation, been featured on discs by Lee Konitz, Tomasz Stanko and others. Baars, who also plays clarinet and shakuhachi here, is known for his usually stoic work in the ICP Orchestra and his own groups; while Kneer has played in Ig Henneman’s group, Joost Buis’ Tentet and many others.

Key driver of the session, Elgart uses tick-tocks, wooden block and cowbell plops plus highly focused rumbles and rattles to hold up his side of the triangle; never beating his drums when he can suggest something. At the same time Kneer’s slippery string rubs and bent note clanks contribute to the clean linear motion with never a wasted gesture. As for Baars; choice of instrument defines his musical persona.

On tracks such as “Anacrusis” and the title track, where he plays sax, his staccato cries and lowing breaths demand doubled rubs and plucks from the bassist, although the drummer rarely lets the resulting heaviness disrupt his swinging pulse. On clarinet, as expressed on “Late Preamble:”, “Complementary Progress” and other tracks, Baars’ cheery, moderato exposition – even at the top of the instrument’s range – promulgates a sense of constant motion which is supplemented in an unvarnished manner, with the drummer’s perceptive ruffs and rim shots plus measured strokes from Kneer. At the end of the first number, the narrative wraps up with colorful rat-tat-tats from Elgart. Finally there are Baars’ shakuhachi lines, heard on tracks like “Zephyrus” and “Boreas”. More so than most western practitioners, Baars avoids any residual mysticism associated with the Japanese horn, instead substituting a Calvinist logic in single puffs and flutters; although he makes space for pseudo-ritualistic echoes from the drummer.

Even when occasional upfront timbre-bending from all concerned are taken into account, moving some sequences into buzzing severity, tonal intersection eventually result in autonomous satisfying and sophisticated improvisations.

Exploratorily progressive and effectively grounded in equal measures, the expression Give No Quarter refers to the intensity of the playing.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Anacrusis 2. Eurus 3. Give no Quarter 4. 5. Late Preamble 6, Song for our Predecessors 7. Specific Gravity 8. Notus 9. Logical Consistency 10. Tale of the Bewildered Bee 11. Complementary Progress 12. Fundamental Ambush 13. Boreas

Personnel: Ab Baars (tenor saxophone, clarinet and shakuhachi); Meinrad Kneer (bass) and Bill Elgart (drums)