Liquid Quintet

June 1, 2020

Sirulita Records SR 1908

Liquid Quintet
Fundacja Słucha FSR 17/2019

Extending the team work established by the members of the Catalan Liquid Trio, each of these discs adds two guest musicians to the band converting the ensemble into two dissimilar quintets. As unlike as each new group is in instrumentation and background, both discs are equally compelling and firmly involved with energetic and provocative Free Jazz.

The vigor of the sets confirms the players’ skill set. Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández is as likely to be found elsewhere in the world in a stripped down chamber duo or trio. Fellow Liquid trio members, soprano and tenor saxophonist Albert Cirera and drummer Ramon Prats, who work together as Duot, are Barcelona-based free improvisers of the highest order. So are the Poles on Flux, trumpeter Artur Majewski also part of Mikrokolektyw and acoustic bass guitarist Rafał Mazur who has recorded with François Carrier and Martin Küchen among others. The guests couldn’t be more different on Bouquet. British bassist Barry Guy is one of the pioneers of Free Music working in every format from big band to solo in his 40 years career. Meanwhile alto and baritone saxophonist Don Malfon, who moved from Spain to Mexico, was serendipitously visiting his home town and was invited to the session.

Probably a tribute to the adaptability of peripatetic improvisers, the Bouquet quintet members sound nothing like a thrown-together group. All five detonate textures from the start and continue with spirited intersection throughout the 10 tracks, though occasionally splintering into smaller factions. Combing jangling stops and pulls from the piano and double bass strings, a rolling thunderstorm of drum accents and brassy twists, spurts and warbles from the saxophonists, constant forward motion is emphasized throughout. Along with upfront squeaky toy-like peeps and split tone cries from the saxophonists, as the rhythm section gallops along in triple counterpoint, hints of castanets-like clapping insinuate themselves into the narrative. At the same time even as part of a quintet, Guy and Fernández stick to personal approaches. The pianist shakes staccato string twangs that echo along the soundboard when he’s not creating a tremolo continuum. In counterpoint Guy’s solid arco sweeps describe delicate creativity as his pizzicato thrusts do so for power pushes. This sort of strategy is effective on “Fire Rose No.4”, where Guy’s col legno jumps operate in tandem with Malfon’s altissimo squeaks and emotional glossolalia. Meanwhile “Fire Rose No.7” reveals the stretched limits of both saxophonists with triple tonguing exhibitions of clarion pitches and deep sea gurgles from the lowest cadences. Moving cleverly along the keyboard in broken octave concurrence alongside Guy’s strokes, the pianist’s pile driver dynamics and cascading spills supersede the almost-human reed cries that introduce the final selection. Segmenting this narrative into smaller and smaller divides, the result is an unexpected cessation of sound.

Nine month earlier in Warsaw, the interplay was just as aggressive, although the sharp elevated, almost piccolo-trumpet squeaks from Majewski seem to give the five tracks extra urgency. From the first track on however, capillary peeps are answered and incorporated in an animated timbral roll out consisting of Prats’ rattle and splash percussion movements, Fernández’s stop-start galloping dynamics and Cirera’s reed snarls and slurs. Almost lost in the cacophony is Mazur’s bass, but he asserts himself in a buzzing introduction to the subsequent “Early Flux”. Saxophone split tones and cross pulsing keyboard slides make the following tracks increasingly busy. Yet even the trumpeter’s highest pitched extensions are blended with kinetic piano string strums and rhythmic string pops to regularize the narrative. Forward motion is maintained along with a jangly groove. In fact when the penultimate “Late Flux” arrives, despite being filed with simian-like cries from the saxophone and strangled aviary shrieks from the trumpeter, last minute funereal keyboard plinks push the ensemble to more relaxed textures. Emphasizing echoing soundboard tones, the horn squeezes finally diminish to near silence.

Unlike some items which are watered down by liquid, the power and capacity for invention of these Iberian Liquid ensembles are strengthened by out-of-country additives.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Flux: 1. Source 2. Early Flux 3. Middle Flux 4. Late Flux 5. Estuary

Personnel: Flux: Artur Majewski (trumpet): Albert Cirera (soprano and tenor saxophones); Agustí Fernández (piano); Rafał Mazur (electric-acoustic bass) and Ramon Prats (drums)

Track Listing: Bouquet: 1. Fire Rose No.1: quintet 2. Fire Rose No.2: quintet 3. Fire Rose No.3: trio (AF AC BG) 4. Fire Rose No.4: duo (DM BG) 5. Fire Rose No.5: quintet 6. Fire Rose No.6: quartet (AF AC BG RP) 7. Fire Rose No.7: duo (AC DM) 8. Fire Rose No.8: quartet (AF DM BG RP) 9. Fire Rose No.9: duo (AF DM) 10. Fire Rose No.10: quintet

Personnel: Bouquet: Albert Cirera (soprano and tenor saxophones); Don Malfon (alto and baritone saxophones): Agustí Fernández z (piano); Barry Guy (bass) and Ramon Prats (drums)