Kasper Tom/Rudi Mahall

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
Barefoot BFEC0 50 CD

Tony Marsh & Cheffa Alonso

Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9)

Emanem 5043

Dispensing with the extraneous musical padding of chordal instruments so that players’ skills are as exposed like X-rayed skeletons easily pinpoints musicians’ strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is to maintain vigor throughout without flagging. In truth like the time needed to recount an intricate fable, extended duration blunts the message, but these reed-percussion duos advance different formulae to combat this.

More compact of the sessions is One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure. These are nine in-the-moment improvisations between Århus, Denmark-based drummer Kasper Tom and clarinetist Rudi Mahall, who from his Berlin base has become a frequent associate of musicians throughout eastern and northern Europe. Humorously though, Tom/Mahall’s title is completely inappropriate for Goodbye Red Rose since one of the participants is a woman: Madrid-based soprano saxophonist Cheffa Alonso. The almost70-minute, six-track CD is a souvenir of her British sojourn. The gigs from two London spaces – notably the since demolished Red Rose pub – and one in Spain, celebrate her partnership with drummer Tony Marsh (1939-2012), a journeyman who by the last part of his life had abandoned mainstream Jazz for Free Improv.

Instructively enough, listening to these 2008-2009 duets reveals that he never really let go of his time sense. No matter how intense that saxophonist becomes in her playing his response appears rhythmic and unruffled. This is especially true of the final” Huesca” where Alonso’s fragmented growls and yelps that advance incisor-like bites with a tenor saxophone sounding timbre are met with connective splashes and splatters. Busy in an ambidextrous Elvin Jones-like manner, Marsh layers his beats rather than grind them into stentorian pulp. When the saxophonist climaxes revealing circular-breathed Klezmer-like textures, Marsh’s sympathetic strokes extend the mood with the sharp-eared affirmation of a canine companion.

On the earlier London-recorded tracks, the two demonstrate the escalating comfort level inherent in their partnership via frenetic, constantly quickening explosions as well as more subtle, amiable timbre exchange. The title track demonstrates how Alonso’s serpentine reed wiggles flow distinctively enough so that her points are made whether spurred by the drummer’s vocalized shouts and percussive pushes or in a more reserved fashion with no loss of momentum. Six months later the sudden meter and tempo changes are so ingrained that they’re performed with the adroitness of a quick change artist. On “Frusleria Tres” for example, the adenoidal reed theme is extended to warbling cries at the same time as Marsh’s contribution advances from understated shuffles to harder patterning.

A much younger percussionist, who was born when Marsh was already 42, Tom brings the same in-the-moment cooperation and openness to the other duo disc. Conversant with Mahall’s style from the many bands in which they collaborate, the drummer paradoxically uses the stripped down situation to isolate more atonal advances while also showing off his Max Roach-like command of the kit. Like a comic who performers his bits no matter the circumstances, Mahall brings the same resourceful dynamics he exhibits in any sized ensemble. He can create a call-and-response on his own as he does on “Here We Go”, somehow approximating a JATP-like realization of “Perdido” at the same time; then turn around to output the closest one could get to metallic Punk-Jazz with a clarinet on the subsequent “Totart”. Not to be outdone here, and as prepared as if he was sporting a fire proximity suit to ward off Mahall’s unexpected volcanic explosions, Tom uses rim shots, cymbal side of snare scratches and belligerent bass drum bumps to hold up his end of the equation. Crucially, like cowboys who intuit the qualities of their steeds, both players have so internalizes their respective instrument’s attributes that they can choose to emphasize whichever components they wish, at any time. For example on “Frühaufsteher” the harsh peeps, pops, shrills and echoes produced reflect the wood and metal origins of both players’ instruments. Despite split-tone Dolpyeque brays by Mahall and rumbles and crumbles on Tom’s part which segment the beat, the CD never comes across as a grandiloquent technical exercise. After all a piece like “Die Flexitarier” may include clattering drum brio and strident reed sprays, but the two eventually crunch the timbral extensions into a jumping chromatic trundle with a near-swing beat.

Both duos may be stripped to their essence(s) here. But the sound pictures they create can be a full of detail as any multi-hued painting.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Trash: 1. Here We Go 2. Totart 3. Drummer Queen 4. Frühaufsteher 5. Die Flexitarier 6. Halbes Publikum 7. An der dünnen grauen Odense Å 8. Lodz 9. Here We Go Again

Personnel: Trash: Rudi Mahall (clarinet and bass clarinet) and Kasper Tom (drums)

Track Listing: Goodbye: 1. Goodbye Red Rose (Adios Red Rose) 2. By The Hand (de la mano) 3. FlimFlam one (FlimFlam uno) 4. No Es Un Truco (it is not a trick) 5. Frusleria Tres (FlimFlam three) 6. Huesca (not Wesker)

Personnel: Goodbye: Chefa Alonso (soprano saxophone) and Tony Marsh (percussion)