August 7, 2020
Astral Spirits MF218/AS 117
Stephen Gauci/Ava Mendoza/Vijay Anderson
Studio Sessions Vol. 4
Gauci Music No #
Replacing the double bass with a guitar in a free improving trio with saxophone and drums opens up new possibilities since the six-string can function as rhythm or front-line instrument. However as these sessions reveal thinking musicians can twist this trio combination into any shape.
As raw and visceral as its blunt title, the Brooklyn-based Studio Sessions Vol. 4 pits the unabashed and corybantic tenor saxophone techniques of Stephen Gauci, who has worked with everyone from Adam Lane to Cooper Moore with the distorted frailings of guitarist Ava Mendoza, leader of the Unnatural Ways band, who has played with the likes of ROVA. Backing with bombast is drummer Vijay Anderson, an associate of Vinny Golia and Lisa Mezzacappa, Dedicated to a more organic approach is the trio on Interpersonal Subjectivities’ three selections. Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama has worked with Keiji Haino and Taku Sugimoto. British percussionist Nicolas Field has played with Jacques Demierre and Akira Sakata; while Geneva-based tenor saxophonist Vidic Gregor is associated with George Hadow and Albert Cirera.
During the course of a dozen mostly brief improvisations Gauci’s near-molten reed expositions and adversarial squawks contrapuntally bump against Mendoza’s chugging riffs and string bumps. As the interface gets denser and more dissonant as on “Improvisation 4”, the drummer’s nerve beat echoes and shuffles cement squeezed atonal patterning from guitar strings and shrill flutter tonguing from the saxophonist into three-part animation. While the passionate program continues for more tracks, including one in which Gauci’s honks and snarls rally at top range to compete with amplified runs that to quote Spinal Tap’s guitarist “go up to 11”, key trio tracks are the sequential “Improvisation 7”, “Improvisation 8” and “Improvisation 9”.
Anderson’s sophisticated hand drumming comes into play with the first, ascending to clattering double ruffs as the shaking narrative propelled by Mendoza’s twanging variations is deconstructed by Gauci’s concentrated overblowing and conclusive upwards peeps. The saxophonist’s bell-pealing variations unfold in both renal and altissimo sequences on “Improvisation 8” connecting as profound forward motion when mated with the guitarist’s unexpected twists and turns. This exploratory triad comes to a reflective conclusion on the next track as tremolo colors from the guitarist and graduated altissimno screams from the saxophonist judder as drum pacing brings contrasting lines together.
More of a lockstep operation, Interpersonal Subjectivities snuggles collective tones from reed buzzing and whistling, hand-patted paradiddles and vibrating strings into narratives that move as one to sooth as well as rattle. ‘Reveille’-pitched ringing strings on “Synchronous Ancestor” take the concept further with each player’s output building up to a peak of cooperation form a pyramid of overlapping percussion shuffles, string buzzes and featherlight reed obbligatos. Finally the concluding “Inner Circle” positions the timbral strands from each player into a moderato theme. The subsequent fuzz-tone guitar licks, tick-tock drumming and the saxophonist’s double and triple tonguing creates a relaxing motif that emphasizes varied colors as it undulates to completion.
Whether flowing or frenetic sounds are a preference, each of these trios has come up with a strategy to confirm its collective improvisational talents.
Track Listing: Studio: 1. Improvisation 1 2. Improvisation 2 3. Improvisation 3 4. Improvisation 4 5. Improvisation 5 6. Improvisation 6 7. Improvisation 7 8. Improvisation 8 9, Improvisation 9 10. Improvisation 10 11. Improvisation 11 12. Improvisation 12
Personnel: Studio: Stephen Gauci (tenor saxophone); Ava Mendoza (guitar and electronics) and Vijay Anderson (drums)
Track Listing: Interpersonal: 1. Wandering 2. Synchronous Ancestor 3. Inner Circle
Personnel: Interpersonal: Gregor Vidic (tenor saxophone); Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar) and Nicolas Field (drums and percussion)