Mathias Bauer/Floros Floridis

Aeres
Jazzwerkstatt JW 178

Rawfish Boys

Fengling

W.E.R.F. CD145

Scaled down to fundamentals, the duos on these CDs are sophisticated enough musically to advance the many textures available in this configuration. More crucially, while both are by European improvisers recorded within five months of one another, the approaches are almost diametrically contrary. Comparing them in visual arts terms, Fengling could be likened to a minimalist composition, making its points through tinctures of pastel tones. More upfront Aeres could be compared to an action painting, with its atonality expressed in bright colors and swift movements that hurl around sonic surges.

Fengling is performed by the oddly named Rawfish Boys, consisting of Antwerp-born Joachim Badenhorst, who plays clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, no-input pedals and voice here and over the years has worked with Han Bennink, Paul Lytton and the Carate Urio Orchestra. Another Orchestra member, Narbonne-born Brice Soniano, now domiciled in Demark, who plays bass, harmonium, organ and voice on Fengling also has worked with the likes of Ben Sluijs and Toma Gouband. On the other CD, double bassist Mathias Bauer and Floros Floridis, who plays alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet on Aeres, now both Berliners, and more seasoned improvisers than those in the other duo. Thessaloniki-born Floridis has recorded with among many others, Günter Baby Sommer and Peter Kowald. Sonneberg-born Bauer has worked with Harri Sjöström and his namesake Conny Bauer.

With ancillary instruments mostly used briefly to change the 10 compositions’ chromatic coloration, the Rawfish Boys mostly mirror Bauer’s and Floridis’ instrumentation, but their performances are more indolent and blanched than those on the other CD. That doesn’t mean there isn’t variety however. For instance tunes such as “Nek aan ek” and “Angel Song” respectively are in the first case almost so-called classical with lyrical clarinet flutters and double bass thunks; or in the second case featuring suspended ethereal reed timbres doubled by Arco sweeps with the narrative genteelly moderated. Divergently, a track such as “Starliner” is targeted around deep tones emanating from chalumeau clarinet and the lowest-pitched double bass strings that manage to attain an arabesque of billowing tinctures that sway but not swing. “Onze Lieve van Blindekens” as well reflects studied emotion, expressed through clever reed-string interaction plus a hint of “Love for Sale”. Putting aside other tracks which depend on harmonium pulsations, the field recording of buzzing bees, and a lick from “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seem”, the twosome’s most notable duet is “Yama”. Between Badenhorst’s double-tongued flutters and Soniano’s strident string pulls, an expanded exposition is presented, widened a bit by organ chords, with a climax made up of cumulative intensity featuring sweeps, spits and song forms, then a final subsiding.

From the get-go, the intensity which the Rawfish Boys infrequently – and perhaps intentionally don’t – attain is part of the duet currency on Aeres. Staccato, curlicue slurs and blasts are output by Floridis as early as track one, “Bora”, with Bauer’s cushioning thumps allowing the reedist to sophisticatedly add pitch vibrato and spetrofluctuation to his solo. The duo follows this precept throughout the remaining nine tracks, with sequences involving such tropes as tonguing blasts speedily matched with pumping string pressure on “Vardaris” or double bass plucks on “Scirocco” after Floridis’ spun-out theme variations have been expressed in a stentorian or barely-there manner at very high or very low pitches.

No matter whether his reed playing is shrilly aggressive or so languid that it could be vibrated from an underwater grotto, Floridis maintains a story-telling connection on each improvisation. And whether he’s responding sul tasto or spiccato in accelerated or descending timbres, Bauer does the same. This is most noticeable on “Joran” when deep, dark bass clarinet slurs migrate upwards to corkscrew split tones and downwards again to growls as the bassist first strums then string pops to amplify the connection. A track such as “Levante” even sets up a shake-down between atonal invention via staccato aviary cries and snarling multiphonic honks on Floridis’ part with a pseudo-chamber music continuum resulting from Bauer’s Arco coloration. The ecstatic result seems to touch on both revolutionary and refined textures that somehow meld.

One presumption is that a simple reed-string duos can produce all the musical challenges needed for profound statements whether expressed low key or at high intensity. And these CDs cinch the argument in the affirmative.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fengling: 1.Onze Lieve van Blindekens 2. Fengling 3. Nek aan ek 4. Vida y otras cuestions 5. Harmonium 6. Angel Song 7. The Bees 8. Yama 9. Starliner 10. Broen

Personnel: Fengling: Joachim Badenhorst (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, no-input pedals and voice) and Brice Soniano (bass, harmonium, organ and voice)

Track Listing: Aeres: 1. Bora 2. Brubu 3. Vardaris 4. Föhn 5. Joran 6. KArif 7. Levante 8. Mistral 9. Passat 10. Scirocco

Personnel: Aeres: Floros Floridis (alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Matthias Bauer (bass)