Satoh/Yoshide/Turner

SEA
Relative Pitch RPR 1092

Serries/Vanderstraeten/Verhoeven

Impetus

New Wave of Jazz nwoj 0024

One of the delights of improvised music how varied sounds produced can be, even when created from almost from an exact instrumental combination. Both these sets feature experienced sound searchers creating distinct programs with guitar, piano and percussion. Yet Impetus, featuring a Belgium-based trio, defines new parameters in hushed, moderato intonation while SEA, by a mixed Japanese/British ensemble situates high-volume noise within interpretive investigations.

Although veteran percussionist Kris Vanderstraeten has been active in the Flemish free improvisation scene since the 1970s, there’s no division between his playing conceptions and that of the younger stylists, pianist Martina and guitarist Dirk Serries on Impetus. That’s because the drummer is the most self-effacing of performers, coloring his vibrating output with understated pops, rattle, rolls and rubs, plus enriching his complementary textures with paper crumbling or penny-whistle-like chirps. Remaining in that minimalist groove, the pianist often bends her exposition between single-note emphasis, brief chord patterning and only rarely using the keyboard’s full reach. More forthright, Serries’ guitar narrative include hard-driving twangs and flanges, but he only up the intensity level when in tandem with equivalent pressure from the other two’s output.

Distinctive instances of this resolution occur on “Stasis” and the title track. On the former, Verhoeven’s swirls and stretches meet the guitarist’s capricious, off-centre plucking at the same time as the percussionist’s parts hop as much as they crunch. By mid-point, the triple intensity is shrunken into briefer vibrations which neatly harmonize rugged drum slaps and flashing guitar string echoes into a distinctive timbral blend. More jangly, “Impetus” is an exercise in concise movements as jagged single-string guitar stabs vibrate alongside piano key clips and barely-there drum rim motions at a moderate pace. Following a protracted pause, the track resolution comes in the trio’s variation of aggressive playing. Serries scrapes and spangles his strings with hard strums as Verhoeven’s explores theme variants in feints and starts and Vanderstraeten preserves the percussive bottom.

If aggression is a needed musical watchword than the other CD provides it in volume. Slightly out-of-character British drummer Roger Turner, more familiar for his work with lower-case improvisers like Derek Bailey and Phil Minton, consolidates his rattles and cranks into stentorian smacks and crashes for equal footing with the others. Guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, who has worked with everyone from Evan Parker to Martin Tétreault, is also involved with Noise Rock, while pianist Masahiko Satoh has composed and played music for everyone from Karl Berger and Nancy Wilson to a choir of 1,000 Buddhist monks. Once some near-melodic whistling from Yoshihide and discursive piano runs from Satoh are out of the way higher pitches and Turner’s smashing cymbals announce that pressurized playing is on the way, expressed in all its multiphonic excess on the more than half-hour “On the Rock”.

Facing off against relentless piano chording and soundboard innards plowing are the snarling flanges and dial-twisting mini-explosions from the guitarist. Calling on his inner Ginger Baker, Turner rumbles and smashes different parts of his kit in response. But he never substitutes power for poise and prudence. Propelling the exposition further, the trio reaches a mini-climax of high-frequency piano patterning and treble echoes from the guitarist. But just when it seems that Rock-like string dislocation is going to predominate, a piano-drums volte face turns a Satoh-Turner duet into something more closely resembling the contrasting dynamics expressed by Cecil Taylor and many of his drum partners. Even as the others' tones subside mid-way through, Yoshihide appears determined to express as many cacophonous Metal-like motifs as he can, but he’s reined in by canny chording from Satoh, which alternately challenges or completes any guitar excess. A crescendo during the tracks’ final minutes matches slurred fingering and galloping piano runs as Turner’s drums rumble and smack. Finally Satoh pushes the others out of the way for a fantastic display of speedy pianism, where he kinetically appears to strike every note, tone and between-the-keys timbre available. Re-establishing a chromatic narrative, the track’s undeniable straight-ahead tendencies are emphasized with terminal electronic guitar shakes and a chiming drum crunch.

Mixing veteran and younger improviser of different nationalities and experience shows how an exactly constituted trio can impress equally by exposing wildly varied improvisational strategies

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Impetus: 1. Unison 2. Emission 3. Stasis 4. Impetus 5. Tangent

Personnel: Impetus: Martina Verhoeven (piano); Dirk Serries (acoustic guitars) and Kris Vanderstraeten (percussion)

Track Listing: SEA: 1. The Saw 2. On the Rock

Personnel; SEA: Masahiko Satoh (piano); Otomo Yoshihide (guitar and whistle) and Roger Turner (drums and percussion)