Mark Solborg & Herb Robertson

Tuesday Prayers
ILK 259 CD

Like a side-by-side fun house mirrors that show slightly distended or thoroughly distorted images, Herb Robertson and Mark Solborg have created diptych improvisations that project contradictory sensibilities. On this focused live recording American trumpeter Robertson and Danish guitarist Solborg use their instruments with some minor preparation for a well-paced six track program that successively demonstrates the near impossible: creating minimalist folkish timbres that are anything but reductionist; plus exposing roaring textures that are stentorian without being offensive.

Recorded in an aged Copenhagen church after the two had been part of a series of intense quartet concerts, the idea was to uncoil gradually while expressing duo creations. This could be linked to the concept of carefully examining the painterly contours of a canvas which at first overwhelms with its busy brush strokes. Since the mid-1980s Robertson, 64, has been part of ensembles ranging from Tim Berne’s sextets to Barry Guy’s New Orchestra. But recently he has been more absorbed with exposing timbres in smaller configurations. Twenty-one years younger, Solborg moves among Jazz, improv and notated music, sometimes in larger ensembles, but more often in smaller structures with the likes of Evan Parker, or sympathetic locals. He and Robertson have recorded together on a couple of earlier occasions.

Taken as a whole, Tuesday Prayers is organized like an art museum, with the listener ambulating through a room that displays what could be Claude Monet painting, say a tune such as “Hymn”, and then move on to another space which features a Jackson Pollock, equivalent as in “Shouts, Landscape and Goodbyes”. The former track finds both players in a meditative mood with Solborg’s initial metallic-tinge folksiness replaced by strings stopped so that oud quantities are suggested. In his parallel construction Robertson’s circular connection is paced so subtly that by the conclusion his vibrating trumpet tones are close to the adhan or call to Muslim prayer. Encompassing an erupting quagmire of harsh tremolo tones from the trumpeter, the final “Shouts, Landscape and Goodbyes” brings out electrified pulses and knob-twisting from the guitarist until synthesis is achieved, with the tune downshifting to a satisfying conclusion via muted plunger tones and restrained guitar licks.

Also like a post-modern assemblage that takes in many styles of art, the nearly 17½-minute title track displays the reach of the duo’s conception by toying with variants of both approaches. Moving from nearly overwhelming to barely there sounds, growling brass tones that reflect restricted breaths plus electric guitar strings strummed with the amp turned off make up one sequence; seemingly unhinged trumpet squeals that face off with hand and palm tapped guitar neck expositions make up another. Eventually after Robertson inflates his exposition balloon-like so that at least two Daffy Duck-like tones are heard simultaneously, downward flanges and twangs from the guitarist settle the track into appealing dampened trumpet notes plus a subsequent 60 seconds of calming guitar preparations.

While not the answer to everyone’s week day prayers, this brief CD demonstrates how much can be accomplished propelling unique ideas through only two instruments.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Preparations: 1. The Flute 2. I know You Concert: 3. Hymn 4. Tuesday Prayers 5. Slideswitch 6. Shouts, Landscape and Goodbyes

Personnel: Herb Robertson (trumpet, penny whistle and preparations) and Mark Solborg (guitar and devices)