Ward/Verhoeven/Serries/Roberts

Imaginary Junction
New Wave of Jazz nwoj0039

Unvarnished free improvisation Imaginary Junction confirms that the musical rewards gained by stretching textural imagination far outweigh the challenges. Enlighteningly as well, as a response to Covid-19 strictures, two extended tracks were actually created simultaneously over the Internet by baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts and clarinetist/flutist Tom Ward in Brockley, UK blending ideas with pianist Martina Verhoeven and guitarist Dirk Serries in Sint-Lenaarts, Belgium. The players have collaborated in person before, plus the Belgians are involved in multiple groups, while Roberts and Ward likewise favor cooperative bands.

Serries’ jagged rhythm guitar plus Verhoeven’s string strums and the impact from stopped keys are augmented by the clank and clatter from Roberts’ so-called objects. That frees up space to display saxophone motifs on the first track and Ward to expose sounds both from clarinet and flute on the other. Always linked to the others’ output Robert’s snarls, tongue stops and flattement are judiciously slotted so that reed disturbances only momentarily disturb the narrative’s stop-and-start motion. By the mid-section of “One” a four-sided affiliation is set up among slim clarinet flutters, chalumeau saxophone spurts, piano key clip and tough downwards guitar string frails. Additional object clatter adds to a near-atonal crescendo, only to dissolve into delicate flute peeps and tinkling piano keys in the finale.

Quickly accelerating from strained reed slurs, spot-on guitar flanges and piano rumbles to a presto exposition given further heft by vamping clarinet counterpoint, the quartet replicates this build up of tension and release on “Two”. Ward’s gritty flute tone is most conspicuous as it joins piano string strums and buoyant saxophone scoops to toughen the theme enough to reach its logical highpoint. Following that, diminishing flute trills, intermittent piano plinks and quasi-percussion beats move the narrative southwards to a conclusive stop. Ad hoc yet adaptable, the group outlines how persuasive and alluring sounds can be created in different locations, and despite a pandemic.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Part One 2. Part Two

Personnel: Tom Ward (flute, clarinet and bass clarinet Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone and objects); Martina Verhoeven (piano) and Dirk Serries (acoustic guitar)