Andrew Lisle/Alex Ward

Copepod POD 11

Avoiding the trap of the mature whiz kid, clarinetist/guitarist Alex Ward has reached his forties crating the same high quality improvisations he has exhibited since he was first featured in Derek Bailey’s Company Week at the age of 14. Since that time he has expanded his mainstream and avant-garde cred, working with both his instruments in studio and song-based forms as well as keeping company alongside the likes of Simon H Fell and Steve Noble. Begging the cliché title, the two sides of Alex Ward, Doors has two tracks with Ward expressively extending the sounds on each of his main instruments. Proficient with rhythms that are as likely to touch on atonality as arena Rock is fellow Londoner, drummer Andrew Lisle, whose associates have included Colin Webster and Dirk Serries.

On clarinet, Ward sophisticatedly explores the coloratura and altissimo regions on “Front”, and chalumeau tones on “Open”. With Lisle’s ratamacues and rim shots marking the time, on the first, Ward’s buzzing trills and burbling modulations vibrate and swirl the theme even as it stay in linear form and twists to a ,moderato climax. With a low-pitched introduction, the clarinet tone on “Open” sweeps upwards to quickly expose a dazzling duet of reed arabesques and tremolos with palm pumping drum beats. Inchoate hisses eventually give way to slippery glissandi, with power subsequently displayed through tongue slaps and strident grows, paced with cymbal clanks.

If Ward’s reed work celebrates shrill percussiveness, then his guitar playing on “Back” and “Closed” mates string stabs and jabs with spindly melodies that uses slurred fingering to advance a lower-case narrative. Here too Lisle’s tick-tock rhythms and rugged splashes regularize the theme. In parts “Closed” is somewhat euphonious, with down-stroke string decorations and reverb taking the place of harsh sound distortions. Meanwhile, double drum pumps make the thickened narrative louder but also persuasively connected.

As fascinating in the journey as well as the destination, these Doors confirm Ward’s multi-talents, as well as the subtle partnership with Lisle needed to display these portals to their best advantage.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Front* 2. Back^ 3. Open* 4. Closed^

Personnel: Alex Ward (clarinet* and guitar^) and Andrew Lisle (drums)