January 21, 2021
Through Eons to Know
Setola di Maiale SM4070
FMR CD 583-0520
Two takes on the saxophone-string-percussion form confirm its ongoing adaptability, especially when applied to Free Music. Recorded four months apart in two countries, the trios consist of a mixture of younger and older improvisers from four different countries. Uniformly engaging, the lines of demarcation involve tracks lengths and instrument choices.
Someone who has played frequently with the John Russell, German saxophonist Stefan Keune, who limits himself to tenor on And Now, has forged a long-standing relationship with drummer Steve Nobel and bassist Dominic Lash, both from the UK. Classic in some ways the CD consists of three extended tracks. Younger than Keune, Slovenian tenor and soprano saxophonist Cene Resnik, who has worked with Rob Mazurek, expresses himself over six selections on Through Eons to Know. His associates are both Italian, percussionist Stefano Giust and cellist Giovanni Maier who have played with many exploratory musicians from both sides of the border.
Versatile in this context, Maier’s cello command is such that the smaller instrument easily fits the double bass’ rhythmic role with additional space for the occasional elevated line in its usual range. From the top combing harsh and wiggling string thrusts with gong-ringing, rim shots and clip-clops from Giust provides the cushion on which Resnik can outline the quickening themes. Sometimes sharp saxophone split tones evolve contrapuntally to cello sweetness, other time a reed-string blend is created. Deviations do occur. On “Practice of a Principle” for instance, Maier’s sul ponticello sprawls dramatically thicken as they evolve alongside split-tone spills from the saxophonist. This finally leads to brighter, near-Oriental accelerations from Resnik as intermittent drum accents come in-and-out of focus. In particular the saxophonist uses a “Reveille”-like bugle call as on “Watching under the Carpet” to end a bout of mid-range theme variations alongside subtle cello plinks. A colorist, Giust lays back for the most part, only occasionally adding a waterfall of cymbal strokes or rugged accents to even out narratives overdrawn by jagged string plucks or reed overblowing. Trio thesis summation comes on the final “End of Western Criteria” which evolves from restrained cello sweeps that moderate dog-whistle-high air exhalation from Resnik to subsequently rough up the exposition, culminating in a finale of almost numberless variations from the two. Along the way Maier produces angled sweeps and double-bass-like pumps, and Giust drum pops and clatters, as the saxophonist stutters brittle vibrations, stuttering spits and vuvuzela-like honks.
As capable – if not more so – of creating discursive sound scenarios as Resnik, Keune’s altogether looser session chugs ahead with heighted intensity from all three players. With the briefest track more than 16½ minutes long, the trio members have plenty of real estate in which to roam aurally. Lash’s pulsing swells and thumps and Noble’s ruffs and rebounds appear to be ceaseless, while Keune, beginning with the primary “Well Then” chugs out advanced multiphonics that stretch to the limits of glossolalia and nephritic intensity. As Noble produces rumbles and splashes from all parts of his kit and Lash projects the beat with washboard-like scrubs the saxophonist’s yelps and swells continue until a little past the half-way mark. At that point gradually disintegrating reed split tones slither the piece to a conclusion marked by a powerful thump from the bassist. While the following “Whatsoever” varies the program with higher pitches from all three as well as near silence that introduces spectacular cymbal crashes from Noble. Lash’s constant string strumming oozes the narration into the concluding “Finally”, whose almost 23½ minute project expanded tonal variations. The bassist is particularly prominent here, cannily loosening the tightly wound strings to propel lower case buzzes and percussive slaps, creating inventive textures by roaming from the instrument’s scroll to its spike. Meantime as Noble clunks rims and rings bells, Keune makes entire sequences out of aviary whistles, culminating in a shaking sopranissimo passage. Splayed spiccato pops from the bassist and barely-there squeaks from the saxophonist mark a descent to silence.
Profound heart-pounding intensity is displayed with color and sensitivity on these sessions. Whether you prefer exploratory sound is solid blocks or more divided, each set has much to offer.
Track Listing: Through: 1. Rapidly Changing Contexts 2. A Wrong Way to Be Right 3. Practice of a Principle 4. Watching under the Carpet 5. Consequences of a Doubt 6. End of Western Criteria
Personnel: Through: Cene Resnik (tenor and soprano saxophones); Giovanni Maier (cello) and Stefano Giust (drums and cymbals)
Track Listing: And: 1. Well Then 2. Whatsoever 3. Finally
Personnel: And: Stefan Keune (tenor saxophone); Dominic Lash (bass) and Steve Noble (drums and percussion)