Marilyn Lerner/Nicole Rampersaud

Brass Knuckle Sandwich
Ambiances Magnétique AM 258 CD

By Ken Waxman

Polished and powerful as the first part of its name and as layered as the second, Toronto’s Brass Knuckle Sandwich has produced a crunchy but powerful snack of seven in-the-moment improvisations. The duo of pianist Marilyn Lerner and trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud, long-time members of the city’s advanced music community, inventively display every flavorful scintilla of sound from the furthest reaches of their instruments. Lerner clips, pumps and slides over the keys in groups or separately and strums, plucks and buzzes the piano’s internal strings. Making use of tongue-stopping, tone crackling and half-valve effects, Rampersaud’s brass extensions include vocalized blowing, spittle-encrusted squeaks, strangled cries and plunger farts.

Expressing timbres ranging from the dulcet to the dissonant, the two produce a track like “Evermore”, which from its carefully shaped keyboard introduction to mid-range capillary slurs conveys winnowing motion. Then they abruptly turn around during the following nat.pit.that to contrast the trumpet’s uppermost screech mode with dynamic piano pacing in the most fragmented mode before joining infant-like howls and resonating key clanks into a balanced ambulatory theme. Kinetics may edge out caution on most of the disc, but in spite of numerous advanced motifs, narratives are always fluid. The disc culminates in the almost 15-minute Rizoo, where broken octave creativity including hand muted brass cries and staccato peeps from Rampersaud and bottom board percussiveness and stopped key thumps from Lerner predominate until the track and the CD’s finale settles into a connective mode.

—For The Whole Note July/August 2021