December 26, 2015
Daniele D’Agaro/Giovanni Maier/Zlatko Kaučič
Disorder at the Border
Palomar Records 50
Creative Sources CS 301 CD
Like a changing room mirror that can highlight different aspects of a garment, improvised music continues to reveal unique textures in the 21st century. The wide scope of what designates the genus is such that two CDs of improvised music can be unlike in conception and performance, as these reeds-double bass-percussion sessions demonstrate.
Related to the Free Jazz branch of the music Disorder at the Border features three European musical masters in a prolonged improvisation cheekily named for Coleman Hawkins’ 1952 recording. The players are two Italians: tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Daniele D’Agaro and bassist Giovanni Maier, plus Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, all of whom have played together in various configurations as well as with a cross section of Euro-Improvisers. Recorded in Divaiča, Slovenia the six-part suite could never be confused with Movements’ five improvisations documented in Köln less than two months later. Titled with jumbled letters, the movements are played by three Germans: Georg Wissel on prepared alto saxophone and clarinet; double bassist Achim Tang and Simon Camatta on drums and percussion. The rhythm section especially is conversant with other sub-genres from Rock-improv to straight-ahead Jazz, but all three happily immerse themselves in Free Music like ocean swimmers on a boiling day.
Wissel, who is skilled at this sort of in-the-moment playing freedom with drummer Paul Lytton and others, spends the initial three-part suite, using saxophone phrasing to defining the parameters of the piece. At times he plays with languid motion, as if his horn is a dirigible inflating by inches; other times his exposition moves with the tremolo velocity of a concertina; while the unique rolling growls he brings to his solos make it appear as if he’s from the Scottish part of Deutschland. Alongside, Tang matches Wissel’s rooster-like reed crowing with powerful string stops, while Camatta’s cymbal resonation underlines the connective exuberance taking place up top.
Fully conversant with lower-case playing in the pianissimo range à la John Butcher and circular breathing like Evan Parker, the saxophonist never makes a fetish of extended techniques. Instead he dips in-and-out of them with a chef’s skill in seasoning a pungent stew. On clarinet, as on “rbt/uao”, his thin, torqued tone relaxes into ripened harmonies as the others bend their textures to reflect this. As much as “mdrt/oeao” sums up the recital by concluding it lyrically with a track that sweeps the reedist’s flute-like elasticized tone, the bassist’s pit bull-like growling slices and the percussionist’s broken beat into a satisfying finale, “lrghssm/aiio” is Movement’s true climax. Electronically processed reed curves, cries and slurps are built up to skyscraper height, but with enough space within the bonding bricks and mortar so that the other two have enough space to express sonically affiliated rolls and swipes respectively.
Moving from the land of the Free (Improv) to the Land of (Free) Jazz, Disorder at the Border starts off as frenetic as any late Trane-Frank Wright New Thing blow-out and like the infantry calling for more heavy artillery goes on and up from that point, almost never stopping for respite during its more than 74½-minute playing time. There are pauses among each of the tracks, but considering what happens immediately afterwards, it’s like the breaks taken as horses are prepared for a run at the race track. Throughout, D’Agaro, who often worked with drummers Zeno di Rossi and Han Bennink, jumps into the fray not only with braying Trane-out-of-Hawkins tenor tones, but also adds pan flute-like clarinet slurs. Kaučič who has partnered sax masters ranging from Evan Parker to Peter Brötzmann; and Maier who has played with just about everyone else; take the saxophonist’s headlong rush in stride. The bull fiddler can pump strings with the strength of an Olympic weightlifter when he wants; as well as being dainty as an ice-dancer when the need arises. Meanwhile the percussionist’s beats trick bag keep the rhythm going, with clatters and pops that arise more from bell trees and other items that resonate like clay pots rather than heavy percussion artillery.
An uncommon mix of Trad Jazz-like pitches from the clarinet plus Afro-Cuban whacks from the percussionist, “Disorder #4” explores one particular method of improvisation, while “Disorder #5” appears to explore as many strategies as the European Union has financial-bailout plans. Maier is upfront here creating theme variations with the originality of origami-paper folds. Ending with a sweeping arco line that balances the shaky contributions of the other two as if standing on a Boscu ball, this allows D’Agaro to stretch his tenor saxophone solos from skywards shooting Trane-like licks to moderato Ben Webster-Hawkins variations. Kaučič’s Art Blakey-like cymbal clanks properly fit each reed modification.
Although the saxophonist and drummer go at it hammer-and-tongs with tongue slaps and reed bites and odd-meter crashes and crashes throughout, the concluding “Disorder #6” is as good a demonstration of Kaučič’s work as any. Creating a percussive continuum from the bottom, his bouncing recoils and runs limit the initial cacophonous exposition to mid-range clarinet draughts and beaten low-pitched strings that together resemble plainsong chanting. A distinct bugle-call-like tone from D’Agaro signals the final motif with the trio producing as many energetic and extended tune variations as at the top.
For the sophisticated listener the chief difference in appreciation for these Euro-Improv exemplars is a preference for Free Jazz or Free Music.
Track Listing: Disorder: 1. Disorder #1 2. Disorder #2 3. Disorde #3 4. Disorde #4 5. Disorder #5 6. Disorder #6
Personnel: Disorder: Daniele D’Agaro (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Giovanni Maier (bass) and Zlatko Kaučič (percussion)
Track Listing: Movements: 1. a llgr/aeo b lrg/ao c vvc/iae 2. ndntn/aaio 3. rbt/uao 4. lrghssm/aiio 5. mdrt/oeao
Personnel: Movements: Georg Wissel (prepared alto saxophone and clarinet); Achim Tang (bass) and Simon Camatta (drums and percussion)