November 11, 2014
Torben Snekkestad/Barry Guy
Slip, Slide and Collide
Maya Recordings MCD 1401
By Ken Waxman
Famous for his compositions and leadership of large ensembles, British bassist Barry Guy is also a veteran small group participant. This notable CD is the most recent example of this skill, but this time his playing partner is one of the most recent members of the Barry Guy New Orchestra, Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad.
Copenhagen-based Snekkestad, who teaches classical saxophone, works in chamber music, rock, folk music and jazz. Someone who plays soprano and tenor saxophones plus reed-trumpet, he’s particularly concerned with the creation of multiphonics. Throughout Slip, Slide and Collide’s 13 tracks that ability is demonstrated superbly but judiciously.
Guy whose reed duo partners have included Mats Gustafsson and Liudas Mockunas, has for many decades been closely affiliated with Evan Parker, who redefined the idea of multiphonic saxophone invention. Although Snekkestad utilizes common Parker tropes such as circular breathing and irregular vibrations, he has many of his own ideas. Supportive, as well as proactive, the bassist’s skill allows him to construct ambitious string sleight-of-hands, while simultaneously anchoring the tracks with tough strums.
Snekkestad’s unique concept is apparent as early as “Utsira”, the first track. Vibrating timbres resembling those of a ram’s horn create a feeling of frigid loneliness embellished by Guy’s sharp string clanks. The reedman’s hunting-horn-like cadenzas are put to good use on “Achill”, as his whispery tone adds unambiguous buoyancy to Guy’s muscular chording, with the tune climaxing with a sonic heat exchange. Nonetheless, Snekkestad’s characteristic tonal sweetness prevents even his shrillest circular breathing to replicate Parker’s harsher variations. The Norwegian’s folkloric attributes plus Guy’s expertise in early music also create a particular niche. During “Silda” and “Ana” for instance, Snekkestad’s vibrating split tones are filtered to create a rustic melody, just as Guy’s below-the-bridge string strokes resemble mandolin plucks or metallophone peals. At times this could be a recorder-and-lute duet.
More consistently though whizzing reed bites from Snekkestad and stacked tremolo pumps from Guy confirm that this is no exercise in folk-improv. Tracks such as “Fedje” and “Cruit” demonstrate the duo’s free music orientation. A chromatic line is preserved on the former as Snekkestad’s tongue slurps and slaps prompt Guy to figuratively dig into the bass wood for rhythmic direction. The second tune takes previously divided tremolo dissonance from reed overblowing plus spiccato string bounces and unites them into an exhilarating crescendo of sweeps and snorts.
While the two may sometimes slip and slide around each others’ contributions, generally their musical thoughts coalesce rather than collide.
Tracks: Utsira; Skeam; Ombo; Gurumna; Silda; Achill; Anda; Cruit; Lopra; Gola; Fedje; Scattery; Senja
Personnel: Torben Snekkestad: soprano and tenor saxophones; reed-trumpet; Barry Guy: bass
—For The New York City Jazz Record November 2014