May 4, 2014
Boss of the Plains
Chamber music with a difference, these two improvising trios use their unusual instrumentation to its best advantage, by fixing on the contrasting textures that result when vibraphone resonation superlatively blends with reed expansion. What’s more the entire percussion function is left to the bassist. Tellingly, although recorded more than three years apart, both share a similar Chicago orientation,
Most obvious link between Boss of the Plains and Yuria’s Dream is the presence of vibist Jason Adasiewicz on both discs. Recorded in 2010, following bassist Nate McBride’s relocation to the Windy City from Boston, the first CD’s nine tracks are mostly built around specific but contradictory timbral examinations. The third Wheelhouse member is local alto and baritone saxophonists Dave Rempis. With its focal point a single improvisation, Yuria’s Dream is limited to one track, which ebbs and flows with the contributions from Adasiewicz, Chicago-based bassist Jason Roebke and Lucerne Switzerland native tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist Christoph Erb. Recorded in 2013 this more-than 43-minute reverie is one of the many results of Erb’s four-month stay in Chicago in 2011, where musical relationships ripened into permanent Euro-American bands.
Balance is the key word on Yuria’s Dream, which much of it literally centered on Roebke’s popping rhythmic activity, which moves the narrative forward even as he leaves space for string buzzing plus finger-and-bow choreography. If the bassist’s work is earth-bound in an exemplary fashion, then the reedist and vibist both appear to traffic in different watery variations. Adasiewicz’s resonations cascade with gorge and geyser implications, often projecting like a rainbow over a waterfall. Erb’s spit-and-polish outpourings are splayed, slurped and smeared, misting the sound picture with altissimo glossolalia from his alto saxophone or moistened chalumeau trills from his bass clarinet. Midway through, following solos that include inner body-tube blows and reed bites from Erb, shimmying and sensuous multi-mallet work from Adasiewicz and pointed buzzes from Roebke, the three settle on a mutual melodious line. Including enough vibrating rasps and smacks to keep the theme thorny as well as harmonious, the finale is both fulsome and balanced.
Three years earlier, able to segment his mallets-and-bars-exploration into nine portions, Adasiewicz tries on different strategies for size. More corrosive, yet ironically more free-flowing, the interface is also more Free Jazz-like than on the other disc. That doesn’t means that the CD is any less exciting, it’s just that influences are closer to the surface. Throughout, Rempis, whose alto playing is capable of Johnny Hodges-like passion, for the most part sticks to Ornette Coleman-like or Eric Dolphy-like strident and staccato timbres. In this way for instance a tune such as “Song Juan” with the saxman’s tart, insistent tones brushing against oscillating plops from the vibist, suggests Dolphy’s session with vibist Bobby Hutcherson. At the same time the rhythmic underlay hardens into cohesion which could be from works matching vibist Karl Berger and bassist Charlie Haden.
Manic animation is the phrase evoked by “Song Tree” on the other hand where the slow-burning approach of some of the other tracks finally ignites. Adasiewicz’s pressurized thumps relate more closely to drum-like percussion, and only secondarily to the vibes’ harmonious functions. Meantime Rempis’ bright alto bites cut through the tune’s textures, stimulating it as the pace intensifies. Luckily as these two players line up contrasting strategies, McBride’s plucked stops are there to keep the piece moored.
Although both these discs may violate the hushed and austere interaction expected from chamber music sessions, as Jazz chamber music they pleasurably fulfil their function.
Track Listing: Yuria’s: 1. Yuria’s Dream
Personnel: Yuria’s: Christoph Erb (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet); Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone) and Jason Roebke (bass)
Track Listing: Boss: 1. Song Sex Part 1. Song Hate 2. Song For 3. Song Juan 4. Song For Teens 5. Song Heaven 6. Song Fife 7. Song A-Team 8. Song Sex Part 2 9. Song Tree
Personnel: Boss: Dave Rempis (alto and baritone saxophones); Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone) and Nate McBride (bass)