City Fall
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04 2CD

How do you improve on quality? Very simply by adding another element that is so accomplished in itself that it raises the achievement to a superior level. Although this could be the focus of an epistemological discussion, it’s precisely what happened when Gdańsk-based alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Mikołaj Trzaska joined tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders for this two-CD record of a live London gig. Parker who has had more playing partners then the House of Saud has royal descendents has been working on and off with the bassist and drummer since the early 1990s. Meanwhile the Polish multi-reedist has come to the fore in international aggregation alongside Americans such as tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer/percussionist Tim Daisy.

Throughout the extended performances that make up City Fall, Trzaska fluid quivers contribute a lighter-pitched but equally pressurized counterforce to Parker’s straightforwardly ardent soloing. Given the penetrating double-bass slices and mobile patterning from the drummer, there’s a cumulative resemblance to John Coltrane’s bands with Eric Dolphy or Pharoah Sanders, as the double-reed front line finds unity in dual exploration. Most of the time, as Parker and Trzaska extend theme statements as on “Hunting Moon”; the effect is that of snakes intertwining one another as they sibilate distinctive textures. From time to time Edwards moves forward with anchoring spiccato thrusts, should reed multiphonics threaten to break the narratives’ moorings, but even in these dissonant moments, the saxophone strategy is more call-and-response than challenge and repeat. At points unaccompanied, the reedists repeat phrases to savor their variations and extensions; other times they bleat at one another like confused lambs. However with multi-directional tones more capricious than callous, the reed lines most often blend, supported by slippery bass string rumbles.

Whimsical ping-pong-like slaps from Sanders serve a similar function as Edwards’ bulky bass thumps to rein in reed excesses on the extended “In Case of Fire”. That’s after Parker’s turns to bravura circular breathing and Trzaska inserts himself into the middle of a frenetic New Thing-like exposition. However it’s the briefer – and instructively – titled “Eternity for a Little While” that counters anyone who doubts the foursome’s Jazz bone fides. With a head that reflects “Night in Tunisia”, the continuation of the track is toughened by walking bass and backbeat drumming even as the altoist's Dolphesque swirls and the tenorist’s stentorian honks torque each thematic phrase upwards. Sanders’ pulsating accompaniment then gives the soloists a solid foundation on which to produce a narrative that moves like a squirming child but is mellow enough to showcase cerebral sophistication.

Perhaps if some xenophobic British nationalists were hip enough to hear Trzaska’s playing maybe they wouldn’t act so negatively about Polish excursions into jobs in the United Kingdom. In the present political climate however, it looks as if the Gdańsk-based reedist should be involved in more cross channel collaborations in the U.K. before Brexit takes effect.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD#1: 1. Hunting Moon CD#2: 1. In Case of Fire 2. Eternity for a Little While

Personnel: Mikołaj Trzaska (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Evan Parker (tenor saxophone); John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)