Angelica Niescier/Tomeka Reid/Savannah Harris

March 27, 2024

Beyond Dragons
Intakt CD 412

Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio
Out of Your Head OOYH 022

Let’s indulge in cliché and state that cellist Tomeka Reid has many strings in her bow. Besides an academic career, Chicago-based Reid has worked with multiple advanced musicians in Europe and the US. Recorded less than a month apart, these representative trio sessions find her exhibiting complementary but still distinctive actions. A raspy Free Jazz outing, Beyond Dragons runs through seven compositions by German alto saxophonist Angelica Niescier, who has recorded in duo with Alexander Hawkins, as has Reid. Third player is New York drummer Savannah Harris, who has played with Kris Davis. More playful, Pith is an iteration of drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio with mostly his compositions expanded by Reid and Mexican vibraphonist Patricia Brennan.

Niescier’s triple-tongued ferocity, jagged bites and reed slurps evolve as the cello and percussion vamp behind her. Alternately her concentrated sax strategies are doubled by drum pressure and/or arco cello pops. Whether the tunes are speedy or slow, swinging or stop-time, the intersectional shading means that there’s really no forefront instrument. Meanwhile a track such as “A Dance, to Never End” goes through several permutations. Beginning with a soft, almost so-called classical cello drones and understated drum beats, obtuse reed flutters move up the scale to screech variations. Drum accents and cello swirls continue to goose the excitement level. In contrast Harris’ martial beat on “Risse” faces broken octave cello sweeps as the saxophonist alternates harsh blasts and moderated slurs. The climax occurs as the formerly deconstructed tune is reassembled with reed flutters and string swells. These nimble shifts from moderato to staccato and back again, usually during the same track, characterize the session. Although percussion stress, prestissimo string glissandi and reed honks project heightened intensity, the trio members’ skill maintains horizontal connections. maintained.

Brennan’s mallet rolling tremolo sustain and multiple bar resonation makes Pith a more relaxed affair. The vibes’ supple ringing compared to a strident blowing reed, contribute to this,  especially when Reid’s pizzicato response takes on double bass-like pulsations and Fujiwara emphasizes consistent rattle and claps. But the relaxed results are anything but sonically flimsy. Melding each player’s contributions on a track like “Resolve”, colors the thematic outline with a rainbow of timbres including arco cello expansions, positioned drum smacks and slow-motion echoes from the vibes. Simplified the contrapuntal interactions project strength as well as sprightliness. Careful to moderate the pace and sonority, andante movement with a walking bass line and simple drum rolls also leaves space for single note elaboration from Brennan as well as sporadic applications of upward string slices and paced drum rattles. Pressure is applied, but so subtly that the buoyant progression isn’t upset.

Maintaining both quick switches and sympathetic consistency on both sessions, Reid substantiates her role as a player and improviser. The other four player involved show similar adaptability as well as writers and interpretations of distinct compositions.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Beyond: 1. Hic Svnt Dracones 2. Oscillating Madness 3. Risse 4. Morphoizm 5. Tannhauser Gate 6. A Dance, to Never End 7. Blue Line

Personnel: Beyond: Angelika Niescier (alto saxophone); Tomeka Reid (cello) and Savannah Harris (drums)

Track Listing: Pith: 1. Solace 2.  Swelter 3. Resolve 4.  Josho 5. Other 6. Breath

Personnel: Pith: Patricia Brennan (vibraphone); Tomeka Reid (cello) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums)