November 21, 2014
Jacques Coursil/Alan Silva
Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg
Clean Feed CF 281 CD
Stripping sonic inventions down to a basic form involving three valves and four strings is the genesis of these Free Music sessions. Yet the subsequent interpretation is so sweeping that the thrust and resolution of each of these high-quality sessions creates a unique sound portrait.
As indicated by the title of their CD, trumpeter Jacques Coursil and bassist Alan Silva extend the Free-Jazz dialogue they first initiated around a half-century ago. At that time, Paris-born of Martinique parents Coursil, 76, participated in seminal New Thing sessions in New York and France with other experimenters including Bermuda-born, Harlem-raised Silva, 75, who after working with the likes of Albert Ayler, settled in France in the early 1970s. An academic who taught letters and linguistic theory overseas for decades, Coursil has finally returned to France where he again has hooked up with Silva.
Approximately half the age of the other duo and just as international, Portuguese trumpeter and flugelhornist Susana Santos Silva, 35, and Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, 38, have worked out a novel duo strategy. No relation to the other Silva, the Porto-based brass player is a member of the Lama trio and the European Movement Jazz Orchestra among other formations; while Stockholm’s Zetterberg has worked with saxophonist Alberto Pinton and drummer Kjell Nordeson. Although their CD title may not be as literal as the other, it hints at the program which mostly abandons the song form to which Coursil and Silva still adhere.
Throughout the 10 tracks, strains and squeezes animate trumpeter Silva’s playing. Rarely open horn and even then sounding as if she’s playing with her horn’s bell pressed against a metal sheet, her buzzing slurs and pinched vibrations negate the brassiness of her instrument even as she insinuates compelling emotion into her exposition. Responding with a multiplicity of extended techniques, Zetterberg accompanies her with motifs ranging from flattened drones to slack-key hammering. Crackling thumps and pumps from the bull fiddler answer horn beeps and buzzes on “Action in Jan-Olov” for instance, while the bassist’s cello-pitched slices presage an elongated New music-like passage from Silva during “Columbus Avenue in Häjedalen”. There are limits to these narratives as well. On “Head Distortion Machine” the trumpeter’s compressed drones, elevated to whistle-like pitches, become so intense that, perhaps out-of-breath, she falls silent after a couple of minutes. Reducing her output to expelling low-pitched air, the bassist’s thick arco vibrations take centre stage.
Despite the defiant abstraction of Almost Tomorrow, every so often melody fragments peep through the dissonance. Phrases which are close cousins to “I Cover the Waterfront” appear on “Nötskalsmusik #6” for example; while scrubbed strings back up a theme that resembles “Focus on Sanity” on the title track Eventually “Falling and Falling and Falling” mates galloping string strums and accelerating blasts at the top of the horn’s range for a distinctively riveting conclusion.
Although there are no standards or recognizable melodies on the other CD, the methodology of male Silva and Coursil is more closely related to a standard Jazz session involving say Ron Carter and Jon Faddis than it is to the improvising from other duo. Subdivided into five shorter sections, each of Coursil’s three compositions is a medley of low-key vibrations and tremolo repetitions. Additionally, 50 years on, it appears that many of the brass and string advance of the 1960s revolution in which the bassist and trumpeter participated have been co-opted by the mainstream. Today, for instance, the low-energy mellowness in Coursil’s style seems to have as much in common with mid-career Miles Davis ballads strategies as abrasive Bill Dixon-like challenges. Furthermore, licks from “Lullaby of Old Broadway” appear to insinuate themselves within Coursil’s final theme statement on “An Evening and a Night at THE ANNEX Bar Part 5”. By the same token, Silva’s spiky staccato lines, which similarly retain mainstream balance, not only add a needed toughness to the interface, but also prompt the trumpeter to further ethereal melodiousness.
Other advances are audible though. In contrast to the understated duets, the segments of “Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind” and “Bennington-New York Round Trip” that are enlivened by Silva’s still-monumental command of tremolo runs and abrasive string scraping draw equivalent spikiness from Coursil’s horn. On the first, from a sequence of vibrating unaccented grace notes outward, the trumpeter turns to double tonguing and triplet tone exposure, ending with capillary cries that toughen both men’s game. On the latter staccato string sweeps become more frenetic with knife-like precision as the tune progresses, while the trumpeter maintains his cool to the extent that his tone’s conciliatory warmth is never lost. By “Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 5” however, the two have moved beyond back-and-forth vamping into parallel phrasing. With his tone ironic yet supportive, the trumpeter eventually joins with the bassist for a smoother and more satisfying conclusion.
Evening and a Night at THE ANNEX Bar Part2 3. An Evening and a Night at THE ANNEX Bar Part 3 4. An Evening and a Night at THE ANNEX Bar Part 4 5. An Evening and a Night at THE ANNEX Bar Part 5 6. Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind Part 1. 7. Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind Part 2 8. Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind Part 3 9. Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind Part 4 10. Brooklyn Bridge, the River, the Metal and the Wind Part 5 11. Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 1 12. Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 2 13. Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 3 14. Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 4 15. Bennington-New York Round Trip Part 5
Personnel: FreeJazzArt: Jacques Coursil (trumpet) and Alan Silva (bass)
Track Listing: Tomorrow: 1. Knights of Storválen 2. Feet Machine Song 3.Columbus Avenue in Häjedalen 4. Flocos de Mel 5. Almost Tomorrow 6. Cow Safari 7. Action in Jan-Olov 8. Nötskalsmusik #6 9. Head Distortion Machine 10. Falling and Falling and Falling
Personnel: Tomorrow: Susana Santos Silva (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass)