Rubicon Quartet

Crosscurrents
New Wave of Jazz nwoj0038

Vario 34-3

Free Improvised Music

Corbett vs Dempsey CD 073

Tonal cross fertilization with collaborative strategies of several generations of European improvisers means that these session hold interest throughout. The main difference is between following a mix and match among countries and ensembles or seeing how quartet members from one country but different ages, articulate particular intonation.

The 25th iteration of Vario 34-3 concerts was organized by trombonist/cellist Günter Christmann who has worked in a duo with bassist Alexander Frangenheim, also featured here, and the King Übü Orchestrü. Besides the bassist, also known for his collaboration with dancers; other German players featured who are also involved in many free music permutations are percussionist Paul Lovens, a long-time member of the Schlippenbach trio and live electronics master Thomas Lehn. Outlier of the quintet is Swedish soprano saxophonist Mats Gustafssonm who leads The Fire Orchestra. Along with five group improvisations the five play in duos and trios.

More carefully divided, the Rubicon Quartet is split between two participants in the first wave of Belgian Free Jazz and two contemporary players. The younger ones are guitarist Dirk Serries and pianist Martina Verhoeven, both of whom have worked with sympathetic associates like Colin Webster. The Flemish veterans are trumpeter Patrick De Groote, who after a hiatus now plays with Chris Joris; and alto saxophonist Cel Overberghe, also a painter, known for his association with Fred Van Hove.

Crosscurrents is also more all-encompassing since each Rubicon Quartet member plays on every track. Serries’ rustling guitar strokes and Verhoeven’s vibrating pumps or clicks usually maintain the narratives or engage in round robin dialogue with the horns. Sometimes in harmony, but more often in contrapuntal resistance, Overberghe’s near screeches flutter with the same intensity as De Groote’s brassy overrides. Additionally one or both regularly confer with guitar strums and/or pedal-pushed keyboard echoes. Not every exchange is spiky however, with “Airs Out”, for instance, taking on a balladic tinge as breathy reed slurs and capillary swells evolve chromatically beside paced timbres from the piano and guitar.

Most tracks are more discursive, but without upsetting the general andante interchange flow. Kinetic asides and wood slapping from the pianist and clanging strums or string pops from the guitarist are expressed, but the veterans’ round-robin creations are more pronounced by sheer volume. Aggressive, speedy bugling mixed with intermittent key percussion and reed honks characterize “A Figurative Flow”, while the concluding “Caught a Flying Ghost” may be the closest track to 1960s Energy Music. Not only does the tune begin with rough brass splatters fastened onto pounding piano runs and clanging guitar strums, but in its penultimate sequence Overberghe suddenly extrudes a cousin to Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” that with flattement and split tones maintains ragged pitches to the end.

Christmann’s musical beginnings also date from the 1960s and with Vario 34-3 editions he’s dedicated to the spirit of free music expressed best in the five group improvisations. Duos and trios are welcome, and interesting the standout track is one with Christmann’s vibrating trombone upsurge and tailgate breaks stacked up against Lehn’s switched on-off signal processing whooshes and jiggling drones. Boosted cello and bass string rubs to their limits and blending spiccato motions with cymbal shivers, drum top smacks and other percussion extensions create an expressive multiphonic sound picture elsewhere. That way, Gustafsson’s idiosyncratic shrieks and split tones plus Lehn’s undercurrent of electronic wiggles are able to complete motifs with exhilarating articulation. Other strategies are also showcased. “Tutti No.4” for instance is scene set with low-pitched double bass strokes, deconstructed with cello flanges and defined by distinctive saxophone tongue slaps and yelps, with all timbres cushioned in programmed crackles and static. Lehn’s fragmented programming also set up “Tutti No.5”, which otherwise is defined by Lovens' clip-clop drumming and extends an exposition made up of trombone lip buzzes and reflective slurs from the saxophonist. It finally climaxes in group polyphony with equal intensity expressed by reed trills, computer rumbles, string power slaps and drum rumbles.

Less so with than any other groups, the division between veteran free improvisers and younger sound experimenters appears easily surmountable. These discs confirm that truism,

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Crosscurrents: 1. Tonic Field 2. Verbatim 3. A Figurative Flow 4. Airs Out 5. Made Dream 6. Rubicon 7. Caught a Flying Ghost

Personnel: Crosscurrents: Patrick De Groote (trumpet and flugelhorn); Cel Overberghe (alto saxophone); Dirk Serries (acoustic guitars) and Martina Verhoeven (piano)

Track Listing: Free: 1. Tutti No.I 2.Tutti No.2 3. Trio: F/G/L 4. Duo: C/L 5. Tutti No.3 6. Tutti No.4 7. Duo: F/L 8. Trio: C/G/L 9. Tutti No.5

Personnel: Free: Mats Gustafsson (soprano saxophone); Günter Christmann (cello and trombone); Alexander Frangenheim (bass); Paul Lovens (percussion) and Thomas Lehn (live electronics)