Skeeter Shelton/Hamid Drake

Two Rooms Records TR 006

Ed Jones/Emil Karlsen

from where light falls

FMR CE 610-0321

Although both of these winds-drums duos consist of fully improvised selections they starkly illustrate the sometime wide chasm between European and American Free Music. On from where light falls, London-based Norwegian drummer Emil Karlsen, who has played with the London Improvisers Orchestra, and veteran UK tenor saxophonist Ed Jones, who has worked with everyone from Dr Lonnie Smith to Dick Heckstall-Smith, squeeze out eight selections that are as restrained and minimalist as they are austere and abstract. Meanwhile Sclupperbep is a first-time meeting between Detroit tenor saxophonist/flutist Skeeter Shelton, who leads his own group and was a member of the Northwoods Improvisers and Chicago’s Hamid Drake, who has played with just about every important figure in Free Jazz. Crucially while often atonal as well, Sclupperbep’s seven selections are imbued with the genetic code that shapes folkloric and Blues references along with inflections from the ACCM, John Coltrane and Alberta Ayler.

While Karlsen and Jones segment their duo with material recorded on subsequent month and into two suites, except for initial hesitancy that relaxes into reed vibrations and spun-out percussion rebounds, all selections are very much of a piece, working up to connective assurance on the concluding suite. Slow paced nut ambulatory the three parts of “November” ascend from the initial mouthpiece mumbles and measured drum clip clops to clanging cymbal and drum rumbles mixed with dissected altissimo reed rasps and saxophone wheezes that become more rugged as the track evolves. The final sequence shatters into toned-down reed arabesques and curlicues mated with dissonant drum clatters.

“December” in four parts refines the blueprint still further. Taking on a darker tone, Jones’ gritty scoops resemble those of Sonny Rollins as he descends from split tones to near breathlessness. Karlsen’s barely there pulses mixes with Jones’ key percussion to make “December Pt. 2” the freest of the Free Music selections. With beats confined to pops and rebounds, the saxophonist has space for sprawling flattement and backwards and moving irregular vibrations that culminate with singular buzzes and slurs pulled from his horn. What remains in the final track is the duo’s demonstration of a sonic ballet that tempers strident reed pitches which sometimes edge bugling spetrofluctuation with a horizontal tick-tock pulse. In broken-octave flurries the two reach ultimate concordance.

Related more closely to 1960s-1970s Energy Music as the other disc advanced from so-called British Insect Music timbres of the same period, Drake’s bouncy pops and especially Shelton expressive multiphonics project equal tranches of power and playfulness. Reed vibrations are so forceful in fact that by “The Call” Skelton’s slurring flattement appears to channeling Trane-like sheets of sound. However Drake’s cymbal rebounds and bell-tree-like shakes so balance the output, that before turning to full story-telling mode on tenor saxophone during “Forest Dancer” the reedist surprisingly trills ethereal wood flute textures. On this and subsequent tracks, paced by Drake, the saxophonist slides from avant to conventional textures, at one point creating taut variations on a simple Aylerian riff and elsewhere playing so straight ahead that a reference to “A Shadow of Your Smile” can be detected. “Now That I’m Free” featuring percussion pops and patterning plus flexible sax timbre relates to Coltrane’s most devotional period and ends the session. It’s the more-than 17½ minute “Like Father Like Son” that allow for the greatest experimentation though. Perhaps titled that way because Shelton’s drummer father was Drake’s AACM mentor, both players here bond expressively. The drummer’s hard and thick ruffs stretch all over the track to properly diffuse the saxophonist’s reed variations. Staccato and adagio as he moves through many saxophone registers, Shelton reaches expressive intensity and spiritual calmness, sometimes in alternate breaths. Finally the two soar to an extended concordance before relaxing as the track fades.

One cliché is that The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by the same language. The same could be said for these approaches to improvised music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: from: 1. Oktober 2. November Pt. 1 3. November Pt. 2 4. November Pt. 3 5. December Pt. 1 6. December Pt. 2 7. December Pt. 3 8. December Pt. 4

Personnel: from: Ed Jones (tenor saxophone) and Emil Karlsen (drums)

Track Listing: Sclupperbep: 1. We Must Play Music for the Children/Attic 2. The Call 3.Tru 4. Forest Dancer 5. Charles Miles 6. Like Father Like Son 7. Now That I’m Free

Personnel: Sclupperbep: Skeeter Shelton (tenor saxophone, folk and pan flute) and Hamid Drake (drums and percussion)