March 8, 2021
Colin Webster/Andrew Lisle
New Wave of Jazz nwoj0037
Bertrand Denzler & Antonin Gerbal
Umlaut UMFR CD 33
Demonstrating once again the sheer exhilaration that can be engendered in a free-form setting by just two committed improvisers are these saxophone-drum sessions. Unconstrained by melody, pitch or length, alto saxophonist Colin Webster and drummer Andrew Lisle of the UK and tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and drummer Antonin Gerbal of France create aggressive programs that are literally breathtaking and percussive. Yet both duos are sophisticated enough so that ferocious doesn’t mean formless.
Often found playing in most restrained circumstances with Trio Sowari and Hubbub, Denzler teams in various configurations with Gerbal, known for his work with the Umlaut Big Band. This is their most energetic session yet: nearly 39 minutes of unfettered playing. Starting with a hard backbeat plus cymbal claps from the drummer, the saxophonist quickly snarls, smears and splatters a series of repetitive tones like a ball bouncing down the stairs. Working up the scale, expansive tongue slaps and split tone expressions that create a mesmerizing interface, Denzler splinters his reed line with prestissimo examination of nearly every tone, masticating and twisting them to reveal sonic colors. Meanwhile Gerbal uses jagged rebounds for constant pacing, where press rolls and crackling rebounds frame bugle-call-like reed peeps which soon become thinner and more intense. The final section propels more mellow puffs from the saxophonist only to be quickly reversed as Denzler attacks and worries the same note over and over again. This bellicose display spurs the drummer to relentless energy, culminating in hard backbeats and smacking rebounds with the palpitating furor also expressed with emotional vocalizing by the drummer. Unending cries from the saxophone end the piece in the same energetic fashion with which it began.
Like the other duo Webster, who has also recorded with Dirk Serries and Lisle who plays with Alex Ward are part of other groups together. But this stripped-down duo gives them more freedom to stretch musically and they do so over seven tracks. Surprisingly, one “Kuggar” is as muted as the other are clamorous with single tones vibrating from within the saxophone’s body tube and these echoes affiliated with drum top spills. Otherwise the improvisations are as ferocious as the one on SBATAX with Lisle working his way through pops, claps and pats as Webster’s strategies vary from razzing reed buzzes to eviscerated note and tones. His vibrating snarls approach New Thing energy and often are pushed with spreading nephritic vigor. Staccato bites from the saxophone are often met with frenetic ruffs and paradiddles from the drummer. Besides breaking up his rhythmic thrust, Lisle emphasizes different parts of his kit, so before tuning shrill, the exposition of “Knill” is introduced by what sound like tambourine bumps
Everything comes to a head on “Yardro”, the longest track, as a renal mid-range introduction from Webster moves higher until it reaches altissimo power and is doubled by positioned smacks from Lisle. Tellingly, before the two reconvene their dialogue, there’s an a capella reed section where Webster seems to be spearing timbres from the horn’s innards. Followed by a set of doubled rebounds from the drummer, the reed coda wraps together nasal snarls and whinnying extensions. If unbridled, stripped down sonic exploration is your cup of tea or glass of wine – depending on your nationalist perspective – then you’ll be able to quench your thirst with either or both of these discs.
Track Listing: SBATAX: 1, SBATAX
Personnel: SBATAX: Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Antonin Gerbal (drums)
Track Listing: Invention: 1. Knucklas 2. Zennor 3. Knill 4. Discoed 5. Yardro 6. Kuggar 7. Gweek
Personnel: Invention: Colin Webster (alto saxophone) and Andrew Lisle (drums)