December 11, 2015
Han-earl Park/Catherine Sikora/Nick Didkovsky/Josh Sinton
SLAM CD 559
By Ken Waxman
Joining those improvisers who conceive of a playbook for interactive tactics – his is called Metis 9 – is guitarist Han-earl Park, Cork, Ireland’s gift to jazz. Now in NYC, Park, who has played in Wadada Leo Smith and Pauline Oliveros ensembles, uses what he calls “focused complexity” to formulate strategies here alongside tenor and soprano saxophonist Catherine Sikora – another Irish transplant – throughout the entire CD, plus Ideal Bread’s baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist Josh Sinton on three tracks and Doctor Nerve guitarist Nick Didkovsky on two others.
Although Didkovsky is also a software programmer, processes aren’t upfront, and the trio tracks don’t sound that much different than the quartet ones. Still, like a plucky heroine faced with rebellious robots in a SciFi flick, Sikora’s vocally inflected timbres, especially on the nearly 27½ minute “Monopod” add necessary human-sourced harmony to the complex jangles and static interference from the guitars. As the guitarists clip staccato whines with ingot-like density from below the bridges and along the instrument’s necks, her wistful soprano sax variations preserve the linear form, eventually making common cause with offbeat folksy strums from one string player. Hear Sikora’s final unaccompanied cadenza as potential human triumph over, or coexistence with, the widening machine-produced tremolo pumps. A folk-like overlay also makes its appearance on the concluding “Stopcock”, although the tenor saxophonist’s concentrated upwards snarls plus the magnetic near string-tearing pops from guitar strings make the track so atmospheric as to become almost haunted house-like frightening.
Like reinforcement from the home planet, the wailing vigor of Sinton’s bottom-pitched horns adds to the reeds’ aleatoric strategies on the other three tracks. Nearly verbalized reed tones are so euphonious on a track such as “Flying Rods” that the subsequent layered lines nearly move into songbook territory. Still, Park’s parallel flanges and hard thumping keeps the results electronically plugged in as well as pointedly blended.
Sardonically printing a faux questionnaire about Metis 9 application in the CD booklet shows that Park champions music over theory. With associates like Sikora, Didkovsky and Sinton on Anomic Aphasia it appears he can have it both ways.
Tracks: Monopod+; Pleonasm (Metis 9)*; Flying Rods (Metis 9)*; Hydraphon*; Stopcock+
Personnel: Catherine Sikora (tenor and soprano saxophones); Josh Sinton (baritone saxophone and bass clarinet): Han-earl Park and Nick Didkovsky (guitars)
—For The New York City Jazz Record December 2015