Anatomy of a Moment
New Atlantis NA-CD-010

Han Bennink/Jaak Sooäär

Beach Party

Barefoot Records BFREC028 CD

A couple of guitar-drums duos define fusion in completely different ways. Both are attention-grabbers though, since neither accepts fusion as merely joining Jazz and Rock impulses. Instead American guitarist Shane Perlowin’s and Japanese-American percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani’s nine tracks mostly mingle noise-improv on the drummer’s part with psych-folk stylings on the guitarist’s. On the other hand the fusion advanced on the seven tracks of their CD by veteran Dutch drummer Han Bennink and Estonian guitarist Jaak Sooäär sticks pretty close to the Jazz canon. But they transform rote playing of standards into a new synthesis which includes Pop/Rock extensions and snaps from Sooäär plus Bennink’s busy pseudo-Swing Era drum accents.

Morose, formalistic and to be honest, stretching an original idea far past its expiry date, sort of like a Saturday Night Live skit, Nakatani and Pererlowin clearly and initially demonstrate the viability of mixing inventive percussion exploration and earth-bound Folk music strumming. But only in a couple of instances do they manage to go beyond merely shoving the sounds against one another. In contrast Sooäär, who has collaborated with stylists as different as Russian reedist Alexey Kruglov and American mainstream saxophonist Joe Lovano; plus Bennink, whose gigs start with saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Peter Brötzmann and include nearly every important improviser on both sides of the Atlantic, cheerfully mix’n’match all sorts of standards and originals and sound like they’re having a whale of a time while doing so.

Nakatani who has matched wits with musicians whose degrees of seriousness range from jokey guitarist Eugene Chadbourne to intense improvising soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, is never at a loss here. His exaggerated rubs of cymbals against drum tops, singular expression on little instruments such as triangle and gong, plus complementary rhythm patterning is exceptional. The drum kit is turned into a magician’s trunk from which any sound can be pulled. Perlowin on the other hand appears content to operate as if he’s studio player on a Folk music session, strumming backing chords ad infinitm. Even when he introduces finger stylings, the result still isn’t that intricate, and he soon returns to consistent strums.

Those few tunes which move from monochromic to more cinematic interaction often find the guitarist displaying a 21st Century variant of Acid Rock, symbolically trading his membership in The Kingston Trio to join The Quicksilver Messenger Service. A tune like “Last Night Now”, for instance, finds Nakatani meeting Pererlowin’s crunching vibrations with singular bass drum echoes and smacks. Meanwhile the final “Century Seconds” stands out among the other tunes. The percussionist’s buoyant percussion rumbles underlie livelier fuzz tone drones plus a continuum is heard that suggests both electronics and an oud.

If Nakatani’s and Pererlowin’s experiments don’t attain even soundtrack-like interface, a similar pretentiousness doesn’t affect Bennink and Sooäär. Confident in their instrumental command, they’re committed to putting on a live and lively performance. But it’s key to remember from the get-go that Bennink’s love for the showy approach of Swing Era stylists like Jo Jones and Gene Krupa is only trumped by his need to be percussively disruptive.

To demonstrate this, almost every track couples an improvisation called “Terviseks” or “cheers” with a standard. Typical is “Terviseks II/I Got Rhythm/Hypochristmutreefuzz”. As Bennink loudly bangs as he rumbles all over his kit, Sooäär at first buzzes his strings, then turns to prototypical rhythm guitar strums to outline the second familiar melody, Finally he meets the drummer’s hard press rolls and rim shots with excitement-raising downward strokes to interpret Bennink’s associate Misha Mengelberg’s “Hypochristmutreefuzz”. The roistering excitement is personified with Bennink shouting encouragement as he plays.

Possibly the wildest romp occurs on a coupling of Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica” and the guitarist’s own “Beach Party”. With Bennink at his busiest, the Monk tune is treated as irreverently as Pop music, allowing it to seamlessly run into “Beach Party”. Lyrically staying close to pre-Beatles guitar licks, Sooäär’s Jazz-Surf version recalls that The Ventures first hit. “Walk Don’t Run” was copped from Jazz guitarist Johnny Smith. Sooäär’s underlying stop-start rhythm and Bennink’s intense pummeling make the sound almost visually spurt from the speakers.

Other tracks are even more humorously audacious such as a recasting of “O Sole Mio” with a beat that manages to meld Sci-Fi-cha-cha-and Punk rock. A demonstrative chance of pace however occurs on “Darn the Dream” despite Bennink’s Krupa-like bomb-dropping and cymbal shattering. Sooäär demonstrates his unflappability as he succinctly proves that he can capably play a standard with the sensitivity of a Jim Hall.

A complete triumph, Beach Party is the sort of get-together everyone would like to attend. Anatomy of a Moment, on the other hand, has too many similar moments and not enough analysis of structure. Nakatani has made many exceptional sessions in the pat and will likely do more, which increase the hope for Pererlowin’s future as well.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Anatomy: 1. Long Walk into Light 2. The Swinging Door 3. Undoing 4. Last Night Now 5. Cruel to be Kind 6. Anatomy of a Moment 7. Day of Exceptions 8. Dolorous Duenna 9. Century Seconds

Personnel: Anatomy: Shane Perlowin (guitar) and Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion)

Track Listing: Beach: 1. Terviseks I/On the Sunny Side Of the Street 2. Terviseks II/I Got Rhythm/Hypochristmutreefuzz 3. Terviseks III/Tartu mars 4. Pannonica/Beach Party 5. Darn That Dream 6. Terviseks IV/O Sole Mio 7. Terviseks V/Pistoda laul

Personnel: Beach: Jaak Sooäär (guitar) and Han Bennink (drums)