August 13, 2021
Ras Moshe Burnett and Dafna Naphtali
Gold Bolus GBR053
Jaap Blonk/Lou Mallozzi & Ken Vandermark
Matching voices, reeds and electronic processing within an improvisational framework is what links these discs recorded in the US’ First and Second Cities. Fusebox’s electrical and other impulses were recorded in a New York studio by the eponymously named 16-year duo of tenor saxophonist Ras Moshe Burnett and Dafna Naphtali’s electronics, live sound processing and voice. In other circumstances the two have worked with guests like Andrew Drury. True to its title, Improvisors is a live concert by two Chicagoans, Lou Mallozzi maneuvering turntables, CDs, mixer, microphone and organ pipes, and the clarinets and saxophone of Ken Vandermark, who works with numerous international musicians. Adding his voice and electronics is Jaap Blonk of the Netherlands, who interacts with as many sound innovators as the other two.
Burnett’s skill in negotiating the changes in many Jazz ensembles is apparent from Fusebox’s introductory “Hall of Mirrors” where his blowsy, Blues-tinged bottom tones slides comfortably among Naphtali’s murmurs that suggest yodels and infant cries. Simultaneously programming not only projects flanged timbres but reconstitutes live playing into a vocal and/or a reed chorus. As the session evolves there’s more emphasis on fragmentation on some tracks, with Naphtali’s vocal equipment moving from bel canto soprano to something approaching songbook-style lyricism to gurgles, retches, evil witch cackles and menacing whispers, often on the same track. Other sequences’ calibration depends on how biting saxophone runs with flattement and split tones that approximate Free Jazz energy are squeezed into the exposition. At the same time moderated counterpoint also exists between the two humans, even when textures are thick and muddier. Cultivated in a sophisticated and knowing fashion the electronics and processing add another dimension with flutters, patterns, buzzes and wheezes. But dial-twisting squeaks and concentrated rumbles aren’t ever allowed to dominate.
Most characteristic of Fusebox’s program is the triptych of “Coded Futures”, “Desire Path” and “Dervish”. The first sets the scene as distanced processes roll into twisted sax slurs and extended vocalese. By mid-point Naphtali unexpectedly begins what could be an alpine folk song backed by a blend of tongue-fluttering reed scoops and machine drones. “Desire Path” continues this idea, but now her voice widens and plunges southwards until it’s lost within Burnett’s altissimo bites and triple tonguing squeaks. Picking up from the preceding tracks, “Dervish” at first emphasizes maracas-like percussion and affiliated muffled thumps that intersect with the saxophonist’s wide overblowing. But after the reed work evolves to screaming glossolalia, it crumbles into slurs as it and the synthesized watery interface presage final voice inferences.
The situation is a little more complex in Chicago since each member of the trio arrives with more sound sources than Burnett and Naphtali. With Mallozzi’s CDs and turntables, the availability of previously recorded, mutilated and processed music and voices is added to the mix. Plus Blonk’s mouth mumbles and syllables extensions include conversational Dutch as well as vocal replications of Donald Duck. Competing with Blonk’s kazoo-like noises, Vandermark on a track like “Aarr Bienn” interjects clarinet tongue-slapping that nestles beside tranches of processed circum music and space shuttle-launching sound blasts. “Mooivirrk” is the longest and most atonal track where clarion reed whistles circle around verbal burbles, snarls and cries. When not occupied with creating the textures of items being ripped apart or adding percussive strokes on organ pipes, Mallozzi sources big band or country music guitar picking samples for bizarre challenges to Blonk’s specifying in a made-up language. Elsewhere a cop’s whistle feeds into an altissimo saxophone scream; or alternately bottom-feeding baritone saxophone honks convincingly move a narrative forward while ducking errant car horn sounds plus Blonk’s repetitive gurgling and throat clearing. Integrated within the three-pronged improvisation, the electronics and hardware noises are sometimes indistinguishable from the vocal sounds. Are the throat stretches and mumbled comments processed or live in the final sequence of “Olo Zzaak Llib” for instance. If both, which is commenting on the other?
. That ending also creates a perfect segue into the final “Deivooa Brimm”, which is introduced and concluded by Mallozzi’s object wizardry. The initial snatches of big band schmaltz complete with female vocals are mocked by Vandermnark’s tenor saxophone slurs even as the backing mutates into steel-guitar-like twangs. Both outputs are further burlesqued by Blonk in his best pseudo-operatic style until Vandermark turns serious with barbed tongue flutters. The penultimate sequence pits machine rumbling and crackles against accelerating clarinet peeps. Adding wood and metal cracks to the reed exposition not only signals the finale but also relates back to the improvised set’s beginnings.
Instrumentally the makeup of this trio and this duo may seem unusual. In practice each individually proves the legitimacy of the set up for distinct improvisation.
Track Listing: Fusebox: 1. Hall of Mirrors 2. Two equals Free 3. Astrocyte 4. Stochastic Leap 5. Short Fuse 6. Coded Futures 7. Desire Path 8. Dervish 9. Hamsa
Personnel: Fusebox: Ras Moshe Burnett (tenor saxophone and flute) and Dafna Naphtali (electronics and live sound processing and voice)
Track Listing: Improvisors: 1. Izzm Akoolll 2. Aarr Bienn 3. Mooivirrk 4. Zkradenn Vaa 5. Olo Zzaak Llib 6. Deivooa Brimm
Personnel: Improvisors: Ken Vandermark (clarinet and bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones); Lou Mallozzi (turntables, CDs, mixer, microphone and organ pipes) and Jaap Blonk (voice and electronics)