June 15, 2017
Clean Feed CF 378 CD
Fred Lonberg-Holm/Adam Golebiewski
Bocian Records No #
By Ken Waxman
Perhaps one day some canny jazz entrepreneur will come up with a Where’s Waldo game featuring Fred Lonberg-Holm. Over the past quarter century, the Gary-based cellist is as likely to appear on a disc recorded in Denmark as Chicago and as frequently in the company of Europeans as Americans. Like an ever-adaptable character actor, Lonberg-Holm’s sophisticated use of cello, electronics and recently, guitar, brings exuberant novel concepts to each situation.
An insuppressibly near-throwback to ‘60s energy music, Ballister’s Slag is three slabs of ecstatic improvisation recorded live at London Café Oto by the cellist, Chicago’s Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones and Oslo-based percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, probably worthy of a Where’s Waldo of his own. The basic proposition of each selection is how swiftly the collective interaction can be pushed to the stratosphere as it’s harshly deconstructed into mere atoms; and conversely how speedily it can be reconstructed into an organic whole. Playing tenor saxophone on “Fauchard” and “Glaive”, Rempis uses reed slurs, screams and split tones to carve out wide swathes of musical real estate where excitement and emotion surpasses bar lines or melodies. Nilssen-Love’s unruly repertoire of washboard-like shuffles and deflated balloon-like pops, especially on “Fauchard” help direct the tracks towards limitless free jazz nirvana. So it’s the cellist’s double-stopping dexterity and focused electric pulses that cram the others textural shards into the equivalent of an unconventional but recognizable program of thematic sounds. “Glaive” ups the ante with the drummer channeling John Bonham as much as Sunny Murray and whinny reed spits angling more towards punkish James Chance excess than free jazz. With the others figuratively trying to cram a gallon’s worth of noise into a pint jar it’s again the cellist’s unexpected guitar-like flanges which inject enough needed space to retain the tune’s progressive motion. Playing alto, Rempis’ slow paced vibrations make “Guisarme” become calm and reflective, aided by the drummer wood block slaps and Lonberg-Holm modulated plucks. However Lonberg-Holm’s slurred fingering plus Nilssen-Love’s rolls jerk the reedist back to connective pulses for the climax.
Those metal hints become real on Cut, with Lonberg-Holm playing guitar along with cello on a Chicago foray with locals, bassist Nick Macri and drummer Charles Rumback. Like an adolescent trying on the hippie-era clothing of an older sibling, some of the guitar-focused material appears ill-fitting. With fuzz tones and choppy strings licks prominent on tracks such as “Rodney's Last Ride”, “Five Ruminations” and the almost give-away titled “Who We Were” the end product recalls so-called Super-sessions of the late ‘60s when rockers stretched out simple tunes to exaggerated lengths. Many steps above those vintage freak-outs, since this trio understands the value of brevity, guitar heroics coupled with shuffle-stumble drumming and repetative bass lines still don’t add much lustre to the program. More admirable are those tracks where Lonberg-Holm returns to the cello. A piece like “You May Think” swings lightly, reflecting the perfect balance among a moderato cello exposition, accented drum beats and double bass thumps. Expanding from these practiced motions, Lonberg-Holm’s bow thrusts are thornier and diffuse on “Domi’s Dream” without upsetting the trio’s comprehensive architecture. More germane, the final “You ‘n’ Me” subtly moderates from an intense cello tour-de-force where Lonberg-Holm practically twins his lines in both bass and treble clefs, to a guitar coda where accelerating flanges enhance and fuse separate narratives.
If the previous discs respectively exhibit the cellist’s free jazz or rock leanings, then Relephant is the experimental foray. Recorded in Poznań, with Polish percussionist Adam Golebiewski, who shows up with drums, cymbals and objects, the two quickly reach a zenith of staccato ferocity, extracting percussive commotion from anything that can be stroked, hit, reverberated or programmed. The percussionist’s loudness is cunningly countermanded by Lonberg-Holm’s extended techniques and plug-ins, which produce tones as astringent as a hail storm and just as clangorous. The session is carefully recorded so that the bounce of bow on strings or the pealing of small bell is distinctively outlined. However certain passages on a track like “Meeting Three Blind People” are so much a mélange of drum top pats and string spiccato sweeps that splitting them would be like removing a crucial ingredient from a recipe. Although this final selection has a heightened climax made up of equal parts aviary cello strings whistles and gale-force reverb from the percussionist, this tune is really a continuation of “Being Run Around Inside”, the penultimate and most distinctive track. Pressured shuffle bowing and multi-textural cymbal resonations aurally extrude like jagged wire on a fence, until both improvisers’ timed contributions sweep into a wheezy concordance. The effect is uplifting and upsetting at the same time. It highlights the duo’s command of every manner of hair-trigger-launched technical extensions while communicating a coherent theme. Similar strategies are present on most of the cellist’s other discs, substantiating the nearly world-wide demand for his services.
Track Listing: Slag: 1. Fauchard 2. Guisarme 3. Glaive
Personnel: Slag: Dave Rempis (alto and tenor saxophones); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Cut: 1. Sleep Comes to Everyone 2. Rodney's Last Ride 3. Six Minutes to Montrose 4. Then Fall Fell 5. Five Ruminations 6. Who We Were 7. You May Think 8. Salt Lines 9. Domi’s Dream 10. You ‘n’ Me
Personnel: Cut: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, guitar); Nick Macri (bass) and Charles Rumback (drums)
Track Listing: 1. Obviously in the Room 2. Disguised 3. Being Run Around Inside 4. Meeting Three Blind People
Personnel: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and electronics) and Adam Golebiewski (drums, cymbals and objects)
—For The New York City Jazz Record June 2017