Louisiana Variations
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 01/2018

Accomplished free improvisations in six sections affirm once again how, this approach has permeated the consciousness of three generations of musicians. Plus the sound’s universality is also communicated. To explain: doubler bassist Barry Guy 70, is British; pianist Agustí Fernández, 64, is Catalan; while trumpet/tenor saxophonist Torben Snekkestad 46, is Norwegian. Expanding the geography, Louisiana Variations, may or may not be named for the American state in which Jazz was purported to be born. Meanwhile the session was recorded in Copenhagen and is available on a Polish label.

For years Guy and Fernández have played with nearly everyone in Free Music from Evan Parker to William Parker, while the Snekkestad worked with the others in the bassist’s Blue Shroud band. Compact and with no reliance on formal composition, the variations here demand instant response and application, with all three prepared to instantaneously move from foreground to background and vice versa. If Guy’s string thwacks appear to do more accompaniment than soling, it’s mostly the volume of the real-time; some of his intricate moves are masked by louder textures.

Guy’s pizzicato kneading and arco stroking of the strings from every angle as well as Fernández’s skill in inner-piano manipulations mean that Snekkestad isn’t the only player involved with dual musical expressions. That said his trumpet’s most notable representation occurs on “LV#2” where brassy wails are met by swirling double bass strokes and the crash of implements vibrating on piano strings. Snekkestad returns to reed snorts by the end of this piece and mostly sticks to the saxophone for the remainder of the performance. With synergy consolidating as the live set evolves, so does risk-taking. The pianist twangs inner strings as much he tickles the keys; the bassist’s resonations go up and down the scale and the saxophonist is as aggressive in his flutter tonguing, irregular vibrations and reed bites. Usually this means that Snekkestad’s output narrows to snarls and Guy thumps until Fernández’s uses high-frequency chording to calm the surroundings with relaxed strumming.

Apogee of the partnership is most obvious on the concluding “LV#5” and “LV#6”. Pedal point accents from Guy complete and suture tones from the former track after the saxophonist’s burbling cries have become the exposition, accompanied by harp-like tremolo creaked from both string sets. Doubled strokes from the bassist’s bow on the strings become deeper and thicker on “LV#6” as the reed tone also darkens and thickens. Before the sequence become completely opaque however, thematic variations from the pianist moderate reed growls and bass pops so that the finale encompasses lucid swing as well as breakneck phrasing.

Overall this CD provides proof of each member of the trio’s skills plus the longevity of Free Musical expression.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. LV#1 2. LV#2 3. LV#3 4. LV#4 5. LV#5 6. LV#6

Personnel: Torben Snekkestad (trumpet and tenor saxophone); Agustí Fernández (piano) and Barry Guy (bass)