Russell/Keune/Vanderstraeten

On Sunday
New Wave of Jazz nwoj0036

A standout session of uncompromising improvisations by three experts in the field, this Brussels concert has inexplicably waited 10 years before being on disc. On Sunday offers two masterful performances by British guitarist John Russell (1954-2021), German alto saxophonist Stefan Keune and Belgian percussionist Kris Vanderstraeten. Russell who played with the likes of Evan Parker, Keune, who recorded with innovators such as Steve Noble, also played as a duo since 2000, while lesser-known veteran Vanderstraeten worked with Martina Verhoeven among many others.

On Sunday reflects that slight separation. Contributing the odd Mylar slap, cymbal shakes and wooden pops, the percussionist stays very much in the background, sporadically accenting the expositions, as Russell and Keune offer up string rubs and slurred fingering melded with reed squeals, squeaks and split tones. Distinctively constructing a strategy from below-the- bridge string scrapes, the guitarist expresses his part in dual counterpoint with the saxophonist’s extended techniques encompassing aviary trills, doits, flattement and sound detours. While the mouse-like peeps and unforced finger picking evolve in a relaxed fashion with circular sound affirmation that concludes first track, a penultimate sequence of tongue slaps and percussive string strums confirm the sonic steel that underlies this deadpan improvising.

Much lengthier, “On Sunday 2” evolves speedily from barely there string scrubs and insect-like reed squeaks as the exposition becomes quicker and louder. Keune’s altissimo split tones are matched with Russell’s ferocious strums and Vanderstraeten rim clatters. Before intensifying still further during the set’s last third, the guitarist’s single string clanks suggest a separate complementary melody backed by maracas-like shakes and conga drum-like slaps from the percussionist. An emphasis on abstract multiphonics from all three confirms Free Music acumen. Yet at the same time concentrated paradiddles and rolls from the percussionist, slashing fingering from the guitarists and patterning squeaks affirm the trio’s creative bonding.

It may have taken a decade to appear, but On Sunday still adds luster to each player’s career, especially the under-recorded Vanderstraeten. Sadly it’s now also a memorial to Russell’s imaginative skills.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. On Sunday 1 2. On Sunday 2

Personnel: Stefan Keune (alto saxophone); John Russell (amplified acoustic guitar) and Kris Vanderstraeten (percussion and drums)