Mazur Neuringer Duo

The Krakow Letters
Fortune 0032 022

Rough, unvarnished but ultimately empathetic Free Improv, the four letters posted from this in-the-moment session chronicle an intuitive partnership. The correspondents of these fanciful musical dispatches are Philadelphia-based alto saxophonist Keir Neuringer and Krakow’s Rafal Mazur, who inventively manipulates an acoustic bass guitar.

A second and more erudite meeting than an earlier CD from 2009, The Krakow Letters is as absorbing as a note from a close friend, since Mazur’s hybrid instrument – which can express both acoustic guitar and double bass tropes – is used for its bonding qualities as well as for solo sequences. Meanwhile Neuringer’s saxophone techniques take as its base the sort of unremitting, opaque multiphonics John Coltrane was exploring at the end of his life and deconstructs his output so that it become more abstract as each of the four tracks evolve.

A Fulbright Scholar and graduate of The Hague’s interdisciplinary ArtScience Institute, Neuringer’s physically challenging approach to the saxophone is given more prominence than the double bass in this session, recorded in a building’s 13th century cellar. Decisively, the location’s spatial qualities invest his saxophone’s harsh tremolo output with additional vitality as it – and he – reverberates back into the mix. At specific times the timbral uncoiling encompasses everything from nephritic lowing to spaniel-pitched yelps. For his part, Mazur’s bass guitar improvisations are informed by his study of Taoist philosophy and martial arts. This novel combination of body and mind allows him to challenge his fellow letter writer with intricate finger-style patterning at the same time as he plucks a connective continuum.

Not unlike any collection of writings, certain related themes predominate, although certain of the sequences are more dissonant than others. “Letter #3” for example explores the extensions and partials available from both instruments. Bookended by the bassist’s spiccato squeaks and eventual slurred fingering, central to the narrative is how the reedist’s body-tube snorts and tongue slaps are able to constantly and impressively parallel Mazur’s evocative chromatic runs. In contrast, “Letter #4” is almost a traditional variant of Free Jazz. Here Neuringer’s flat-line breaths are initially tonal, until they evolve to test the program’s tensile limits by unleashing burrowing animal-like screams and timber wolf-like whines. At the same time, the string player’s sinewy chording allow him to pursue his own course without trepidation, keeping the exchange linear enough to ensure inchoate reed sounds don’t push the correspondence into the dead letter office.

Challenging as well as captivating, the CD’s in-the-moment improvisations fascinate because of their eventual sympathetic connection as well as continuous idea flow.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Letter #1 2. . Letter #2 3. . Letter #3 4. . Letter #4

Personnel: Keir Neuringer (alto saxophone) and Rafal Mazur (acoustic bass guitar)