Yoni Kretzmer/Andrew Drury

Oranges
OutNow ONRO 22

By Ken Waxman

Experienced composers, arrangers and members of all sizes of bands, Brooklynites, tenor saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer and drummer Andrew Drury, plunge head-first into hard-core improv with Oranges which consists of three mini and three maxi tracks. The results are a shellac-hard variant on this unforgiving duo configuration that for years has provided MRA-like scans into the inner workings of ardent improvisers’ capacities.

Kretzmer, who has never recorded in this format and Drury whose only previous attempt was a tyro effort a decade ago, appear determined to expose the fragility as well as the ferocity of this setup. In fact, like the fairy tale frog who becomes a handsome prince after being kissed by a princess, there are times when fetching glimpses of mainstream tropes can be glimpsed among the abrasive and amphibian extended techniques. This is particularly apparent on the title track where after twisting into the tune with the velocity of two Robertson screwdrivers, the saxophonist diminishes reed pressure and the drummer lightens his touch so that inner Paul Gonsalves and Jo Jones suggestions are sighted through the tougher Sonny Rollin-Elvin Jones-like outer shell.

Throughout there’s nothing particularly slimy about the playing, unless if emotion brought upfront is somehow a drawback. It isn’t of course. What Kretzmer and Drury are doing is what jazzers from King Oliver on have done, forgo the commonplace and the pretty, to stretch timbres so that the result exposes the equivalent of precious metals dug out of a grimy mine pit. Thoroughly 21st century as well, the two show with “Synaptic App”, “History Will Absolve Me” and “Repercussion” that this transformation can take place at tweet-length as well as voluminously. On the final “Repercussion” for instance, Drury’s scraped cymbal line could come from a trumpet, and so puts into broader relief Kretzmer’s slobbery tenor tone.

With the depth that is expressed in novel form rather than as a tweet, the 16½-minute “Evocations” is the CD’s defining track. Elastic and exciting, its length allows successive chapters of sound extensions to appear with the grace of a pastoral pond as well as with the pulse-quickening danger of rushing rapids. Drury’s crackles and crunches mercurially expose various beats; and when he’s not showcasing command of altissimo pitches, Kretzmer appears to be digging impacted tones from his horn’s metal finish.

Tenor saxophone-drum dialogues are one of jazz’s standard iterations and with Oranges Kretzmer and Drury produce a memorable variation on the theme.

Tracks: Akushkash; Synaptic App; Evocations; History Will Absolve Me; Oranges; Repercussion

Personnel: Yoni Kretzmer: tenor saxophone; Andrew Drury: drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record November 2015