June 11, 2020
Helix LX 013
NotTwo MW 998-2
Alternative approaches to a simple piano-saxophone-drums interaction characterize these decisive trio sessions. As unlike as beer is to wine both concepts are equally valid and thoroughly contemporary, proving again how far this configuration has evolved since Benny Goodman popularized it 85 years ago,
No one here would relate to those Swing Era idols though. Firmly rooted in Free Jazz and Free Music with a touch of ethnic sounds are the Chicagoans on Triple Tube, saxophonist Dave Rempis, who worked with Ken Vandermark and leads a variety of his own units, and percussionist Michael Zerang, whose associates stretch from Joe McPhee to Hamid Drake. Third partner in the ensemble is Graz pianist Elisabeth Harnik, who has extensive notated music experience as well as improv partnerships with the likes of Joëlle Léandre, Moving on from Free Jazz and Free Music to even testier microtonal sounds is the trio on Lescene/Gmatique. All Lille-based and members of the Muzzix collective, saxophonist Sakina Abdou has played with Eve Risser and Raymond Boni; pianist Barbara Dang with Sophie Agnel and the Dedalus ensemble; and drummer Peter Orins in a multitude of small and large ensembles such as those with Satoko Fuji.
Both slightly over 17 minutes long, the Abdou/Dang/Orins tracks are pretty much all of a piece, insistent on melded group timbres rather than solo extrusions. Drum rumbles, clops and clashes temperately underpin vibrating runs and internal string plucks from the pianist and unaccented air, unvarying shrills and growled split tones from either Abdou’s recorder or alto saxophone. Eventually on “Lescence”, the three reach an understated abstracted dissolve that simultaneously stitches together string strums, drum top rubs and reed whispers into a dense undulating mass. As Dang demonstrates facility, bolstering the piano’s menacing lowest notes even as she contributes ringing tones to create a buzzing interface, the subsequent “Gmatique” remains on the same musical plane. Still its horizontal drone is subsequently pierced by idiophone thumps and ratcheting, mouse squeak split tones that radiate from the saxophone’s body-tube and a two-handed keyboard exposition that is processional and expressive. Reflective polyphony though means that individuality remains along with tonal density.
On the other disc the three live Tube variations are also open enough to emphasize personal creativity as much as group narratives. From the top Zerang’s power thumps and Rempis’ tenor saxophone miultiphonics are challenged by a waterfall of cascading keyboard inferences from Harnik, which spill out horizontally while working themselves into any pauses or cracks left open by the others’ pauses. As the pianist’s dynamics reach near-Cecil Taylor-like flexibility, the drummer responds with redoubled dark rumbles and the saxophonist with spurting glissandi. Before the three slide down to a slacker pace their collective freneticism has reach such a level of flamenco-like brawn that Andalusian echoes are insinuated. While an interregnum of swirling string driven stop time challenge enlivens “Triple Tube II”, the sequende3 is stretched still further. Reshaping it involves a mixture of muted cymbal tolling and crackles from Zerang: honks and peeps from Rempis: and Harnik ruffling pedal pushed textures so that they echo throughout the piano’s soundboard.
High-pitched reed sucking and guitar-like plucks from Harnik presage a more moderated and relaxed finale to “Triple Tube III”. But with musician cross talk identifying that the audience yearns for more, the trio resumes the program with louder reed distortions, clattering drum clips and most importantly keyboard scrubbing theme extensions from the pianist. Finally Rempis’ spindly split tones, Zernag’s echoing pops and a galloping, repetitive rondo from Harnik layer the collective output to a laugher-filled ending.
Creatively and stylistically there are actually few limits to what committed improvisers can produce no matter the instrumentation. This concept is conclusively proven with these trio discs.
Track Listing: Lescene: 1. Lescence 2. Gmatique
Personnel: Lescene: Sakina Abdou (alto saxophone and recorder); Barbara Dang piano) and Peter Orins (drums)
Track Listing: Triple: 1. Triple Tube I 2. Triple Tube II 3. Triple Tube II
Personnel: Triple: Dave Rempis (alto and tenor saxophones); Elisabeth Harnik (piano) and Michael Zerang (percussion)