Living Room + Barry Guy

Live at Literaturhaus
Ilk 239 CD

By Ken Waxman

Demonstrating the distinction between fission and fusion, veteran British bassist Barry Guy partners the Danish Living Room trio in a timbre-suturing-like program that sounds like three improvisations from an integrated quartet rather than from a trio plus one. Sophisticated in the use of multifold string techniques, Guy has spent a half-century intersecting with improv visionaries, so the challenges advanced by reedist Torben Snekkestad, keyboardist Søren Kjægaard and drummer Thomas Strønen don’t faze him.

However Live at Literaturhaus doesn’t become a Guy quartet session. Strønen’s cross-cut cymbal scratches and percussive buzzing; Kjægaard’s high-frequency piano chording and judicious electric keyboard interjections; plus Snekkestad’s timbres from soprano and tenor saxophones and reed trumpet which often seem to be aggressively forced through a stainless steel, strainer, are just as prominent. These pared guttural blows alongside the telephone static-like crackling from the others two Living Roomers in “Part #1” bring out staccato stops from Guy, that alternate between lowing and squeaking. Before the 51-minute performance wraps up with an evocative yet muscular finale at the completion of “Part #3”, it’s only one strategy advanced by the four. Midway through “Part #2” for instance, Snekkestad’s tenor timbres turns boudoir-like sensuous with equivalent hedonistic splashes from Kjægaard’s piano. While Part #3 eventually locks together winnowing reed draughts, bass string pounding and drum ruffs, the first part of the last selection is as belligerent as a declaration of war. Triple-stopping sul ponticello strokes from the bassist; crowded, circularly breathed pitch alternations bubbling from Snekkestad’s horns; swelling dynamics from the keyboard(s) and descending accents and pauses from the drummer lead to a narrative that slow disappears, leaving echoes of peace and power.

—For The Whole Note March 2016