January 6, 2021
Andrew Cheetham & Alan Wilkinson
The Vortex of Past Time
New Wave of Jazz nwoj028
Tony Irving & Massimo Magee
Vitriol and the Third Oraculum
577 Records 5835
Unabashed Free Jazz with wailing saxophone split tones and authoritative percussion punches has been part of the vocabulary since the mid-1960s and is now an accepted form like. Bebop, Fusion or Dixieland. Yet the emotional mojo needed to create exceptional sounds aren’t reached by all sessions. However these British duos raise the ante.
Veteran reeds player Alan Wilkinson is known for his discs with Simon H. Fell and Paul Hession, while three-decades-younger percussionist Andrew Cheetham has worked with David Burchall. Closer in age, saxophonist Massimo Magee, has worked with among others, Jim Denley and Barre Phillips, while percussionist Tony Irving, now Brisbane-based has played with Lee Ranaldo and Paul Dunmall.
From the very beginning of “Axial Velocity “ stentorian slurps are sourced from below his baritone saxophone’s s-curve by Wilkinson, spilling out a cornucopia of split tones as Cheetham’s cymbal clashes and pressurized patterning add to the exposition’s intensity. Until the end of the session after that, the saxophonist moves back and forth among circular-breathed repetitions, vocalized shouts, extended glossolalia and altissimo projections, Making a virtue of minimalism, Cheetham’s strategy includes bell ringing, steel-drum-like echoes metallic rim shots and accented press rolls. While much of the sounds move in this vigorous fashion, a patina of melody exists beneath the surface. It’s expressed most succinctly on the concluding “Outer Radius”, which ends with accelerating bugle-like rasps following a sequence of high-pitched squeals vibrating from inside the bass clarinet’s body tube are met by subtle cymbal slaps and drum-top clip clops. Otherwise full-throttle expression is paramount, with reeds lowing slurs or squawking snorts, ripping apart the narrative or briefly sinking to barely-there smears. With drum rumbles as deep and echoing as Wilkinson’s solos are, jagged excess is kept in check and making the overall performance compelling.
Meanwhile on Vitriol and the Third Oraculum’s three tracks, Magee goes through oral contortions similar to Wilkinson’s as he puffs and sputters through the saxophone registers. By “Well of Souls” in fact, as Irving’s resplendent tapping keeps the exposition’s pulse steady, the saxophonist’s shrill altissimo doits and dissected spetrofluctuation make it seem as if he’s digging buried notes from within the furthest reaches of his horn’s body tube, taking energy from the metal. With the volume of an electric bullhorn the jagged output soon becomes more renal than reed oriented, culminating in a buzzing multiphonic crescendo that could make Peter Brötzmann jealous. “The Third Oraculum”, the massive (almost 26 minute) final track is a continuum of this, with the reed-biting output as hard and heavy as before, but with the drummer stuffing any protracted pauses with cymbal clangs and drum rebounds, Finally as irregularly vibrated trills and vigorous drum smacks combine for Energy Music emulations, the enhanced vibrations bring the sequence and the CD to the end with the same high energy with which it began.
Overall, either of these discs could be a cure for anyone’s languor or ennui caused by pandemics fears or other unforeseen disasters.
Track Listing: Vortex: 1. Axial Velocity 2. Tangential Velocity 3. Inner Radius 4. Outer Radius
Personnel: Vortex: Alan Wilkinson (alto and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, and voice) and Andrew Cheetham (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Vitriol: 1. Vitriol 2. Well of Souls 3. The Third Oraculum
Personnel: Vitriol: Massimo Magee (tenor, alto and sopranino saxophones) and Tony Irving (drums)