Stefan Keune/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble

NoBusiness NPLP 83

Trying to ascribe geographical characteristics to improvisers is usually as bogus as analysing the behavior or scientists or sports figures via their national origin. Like all concepts built on platitudes there’s some truth in the stereotypes of course, but the reverse can be just as legitimate. All this is a roundabout way to note that Fractions takes no quarter. It’s a high energy, live, five-track wedge of unbridled improvisation. It’s the sort of sounds identified by supporters and denigrators of Energy Music, with its avatars American figures such as Charles Gayle and Albert Ayler or German such Peter Brötzmann.

There are no Yank is attendance and the only German featured is alto saxophonist Stefan Keune. However he’s usually found in more restrained and cerebral circumstances with partners like British guitarist John Russell. In Free Music, Brits are supposed to be e preoccupied with small gestures and dwindling sounds. But it appears the London-based part of the trio didn’t get that memo. Bassist Dominic Lash works with a variety of players both in the United Kingdom and overseas, while drummer Steve Noble appears to have played with nearly everyone in the Jazz-Improv circuit including heavy blowers like Brötzmann.

Although figuring out who stepped out of his accustomed role to inspire the other trio members is probably a classic chicken-and-egg situation, what relay matters is the end product. Although never recorded together before Keune-Lash-Noble connect like a lock and key, start playing in full, screaming Free Jazz mold and don’t let up for 45 minutes. Along the way there are several stand-out moments. There’s Lash’s thick string stropping on “Cuts” which work up to double stopped squeezes; and his antithetical approach on “A Find” where he finds several vocalized textures, scrapping them out with a bow from positions above and below the bridge. Plus there’s Noble’s pacing throughout. Sourcing textures as common as drum rolls and cymbal clang, and as startling as those which appear to emanate from balloons, scrapers, maracas, nutcrackers, gongs and bells, he somehow manages to back-up the other two, yet pump out rhythms in double counterpoint that if isolated would be solos in themselves.

Squeaking, peeping and grunting, Keune unbridled emotionalism rife with irregular vibrations takes in split tones, triple tonguing and reed bites. Yet he’s playing includes with an analytical thesis, which could probably be attributed to his Teutonic background. By “Mélange”, the final track, his output has gone past glossolalia to approach the spirit-feel of religious speaking in tongues, an attribute of Pentecostal American not Lutheran-Catholic churches.

Whether it’s British reserve or Germanic toughness that created it, this miasma of passionate expression reaches a crescendo of sensational intensity in that final track’s last few minutes. Subsequently, and almost nonchalantly, the three wrap things up as if turning off the engine of a sports car that has been racing at 160 rpm minutes previously.

Perhaps the cliché needed here is one that explains this unanimity of musical purpose. At any rate these Fractions add up to the proper result.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing 1. Two Far 2. Cuts 3. A Find 4. Let’s Not 5. Mélange

Personnel: Stefan Keune (sopranino and tenor saxophones); Dominic Lash (bass) and Steve Noble (drums, cymbals and percussion)