Peter Van Huffel’s Gorilla Mask

Bite my Blues
Clean Feed CF 302 CD

By Ken Waxman

With a program built around his rugged compositions, Canadian expatriate alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel and his Gorilla Mask trio mine the seam of improvised music with implements forged equally from effervescent melodies reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s electric bands and the obdurate rhythms of punk rock. At the same time the Berlin-based saxophonist and his Teutonic associates, bassist Roland Fidezius and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner, bring a refreshing originality to the tracks with animated musicianship stressing exhilaration over power beats.

Tunes such as the title track, “Broken Flower” and “Fast & Furious”, which make up a mini-suite, emphasize the power of the Kingston-born saxophonist. His jagged reed bites and split tones are fluid, but also imbued with road-house-like honking strength. This is especially apparent on “Bite My Blues” where Van Huffel’s hoarse split tones mine not only particular note patterns but also equivalent extensions and partials. Fischerlehner’s thick back beat plus Fidezius’ unswerving pulse create an ostinato reminiscent of “Spoonful”. Elsewhere the reedist’s versatility is on display. At points his choked expositions presage volcanic power about to burst into multiphonics; elsewhere his melancholic tone slurring suggests off-kilter funeral dirges. Sophisticated in his electric bass manipulation, Fidezius can wrench a Jew’s harp twang or bubbling slides from his instrument. Additionally he often doubles the reed expositions. “What?!” for examples affirmatively answers the question of whether speedy sax runs can harmoniously mate with watery surf-music bass chording.

Van Huffel and company may be in simian disguise, but the musical power of this CD unmasks them as sophisticated and very human performers.

Track Listing: 1. Chained 2. What?! 3. Skunk 4. Bite my Blues 5. Broken Flower 6. Fast & Furious 7. Z

Personnel: Peter Van Huffel (alto saxophone); Roland Fidezius (electric bass and effects) and

Rudi Fischerlehner (drums)

-A MusicWorks Exclusive Spotlight Review