Barre Phillips/Giancarlo Locatelli

November 22, 2023

Danza degli scorpioni
We Insist! CD WEIN 23

Now at 88, reestablished to the US after 40 years in France, bassist Barre Phillips’ interaction and influence among Europe improvisers was major. Part of a trio with Swiss musicians pianist Jacques Demierre and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber for 22 years before 2022 didn’t preclude him from involvement in numerous other contexts.

One notable instance was this duo with Milan-based Giancarlo Locatelli, recorded in 2008 at Austria’s Ulrichsberger Kaleidohon. Locatelli, now 52, often plays with Alberto Braida, expresses as much authority with his Bb and bass clarinet as Phillips does with his double bass. Danza degli scorpioni isn’t some dry technical exercise or vulgarian contest however, Both players’ musical sophistication is tempered with respect. The four selections almost effortlessly demonstrating how extended techniques can be performed with kinship as well as kinetics.

Moving between his horns, Locatelli’s multiphonic essence is expressed in variations ranging from dark chalumeau sputters to clarion flutters all the way up to super staccato squeaks, tongue slaps and air hissing. Creating in an expressive or responsive fashion, Phillips’ progress involves pumps and slaps against his instrument’s wood, seemingly detuned string percussion, thickened rumbles, treble twangs and measured string stropping. No gesture from either side exists in isolation; and each is expressed to dual evolution. “Dance Of The Scorpions No. 1”, the initial nearly 26-minute initial track outlines this paradigm at its greatest length. Maintaining horizontal evolution, differences in pitch, attack and tempo are further projected with Phillips’ col legno string pumps, rugged spiccato slides and paced strums, all of which sometimes arise alongside lyrical arco interludes. Clarinet squeaks and peeps respond to shrill string slices with the same skill that snorts and widening, almost watery burbles evolved in counterpoint to lower-case string reverberations. Maintaining broken octave evolution, on his own Locatelli expresses individuality with aides of unaccented air propelled without key movement, watery burbles and responsive doits and scoops.

One hopes that despite his age Phillips has more innovative work ahead. Right now though you can revel in spectacular in-the-moment improvising when he was a mere stripling of 70.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Dance Of The Scorpions No. 1 2. Little Speech + Dark Moon Dance One 3. Dark Moon Dance Two 4. Dance Of The Scorpions No. 2.

Personnel: Giancarlo Nino Locatelli (Bb and bass clarinet and voice) and Barre Phillips (bass and a little speech)