Fred Costa / Gregory Sandomirsky / Vladimir Kudryavtsev / Piotr Talalay

July 6, 2020

Quartet Red

Leo Records CD LR 882

François Carrier/Tomek Gadecki/Marcin Bożek/Michel Lambert


FMR CD 556

Ever since the loosening of restrictions in countries that were part of the former Soviet Bloc in the 1990s, east-west musical collaboration have surged from a trickle to a torrent. This is especially when it come to improvised music, since fewer strictures have to be observed from either side. As a rule of thumb it would appear that the more abstract the sounds the better the collaboration works. At least that’s the case with these discs. Three powerful selections on Wide confirm that ongoing relationship among Canadians, alto saxophonist François Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert, with Polish players tenor saxophonist Tomasz Gadecki and Marcin Bożek, who play both bass and French horn. Meanwhile Quartet Red, which tempers avant-garde extensions with more traditional Jazz and Blues tropes, highlights the collaboration between the Russian rhythm section of pianist Gregory Sandomirsky, bassist Vladimir Kudryavtsev and drummer Piotr Talalay with French tenor saxophonist Fred Costa.

Gadecki, who has worked with Mikołaj Trzaska and Rafał Mazur, and Bożek who is creator of the Gdynia Improvisers Orchestra fit comfortably with the concepts of Lambert and Carrier, who singly or together have played with Paul Bley, John Edwards, Steve Beresford and a host of other innovators. Although the disc includes “Radiancy”, a briefer interregnum that wraps its balladic aspirations among a tougher pulse of clenched strings, reed peeps and drum pulses, the space allocated to the introductory 23-minute “Wide”, and the aptly-titled nearly 32 minutes of “Leeway”, allow for expanded improvisational freedom.

Bożek’s French horn purrs give these sequences unique expositions as capillary warmth strengthen the theme on the title tune, while Carrier’s squeals rappel upwards and Gadecki’s breathy split tone move in the other direction, attempting to deconstruct the narrative. Yet capillary smears from the horn help produce a connection especially when Lambert’s emphasized slaps, latterly attached to a strummed double bass line, cements the foundation. Later Bożek’s subtle horn yelps establish a layered intersection among the three horns even as the broken octave strategy involves altissimo squeaks from the alto and supple split tones from the tenor. Eventually a subtle march tempo underlines the horns outlining the theme in sequence. Finally melismatic runs and extroverted split tones from the saxophonists confirm reed experimentation until “Wide” moves to a chromatic conclusion. Carrier’s quacking shrills mixed with inside-the-horn vocalizing marks the beginning of “Leeway” until the repetitive motif is heightened with intertwined reed-biting and honking vibrations from Gadecki’s tenor saxophone. While the alto saxophonist detours into glossolalia and curlicue slurs, latterly in double counterpoint with French horn vamps, the tenor saxophone creates a droning continuum. The ensuing section includes distinctive a capella splintered vibrations and puffing snarls from Carrier, succeeded by drum clip-clops and string pops and finally by a melody-oriented climax rolled out by the tenor saxophonist.

If Bożek’s ambidextrous skills on double bass and French horn unexpectedly stand out on Wind, then the versatility of Sandomirsky piano approach does so on Quartet Red’s nine tracks. With song titles that appear to reflect musicians’ experiences on the road, Sandomirsky’s phrasing encompasses primitivist Blues phrasing, prototypical late-night Jazz club vamping and keyboard stretching cascades. Disconcerting though is when he, infrequently, and Costa, very often, vocalize. Perhaps a Tom-Waits homage, the saxophonist’s gruff, choked verbalization consists mostly of mumbles in some language. Dolefully his playing is distinct enough to avoid these extraneous verbalizations. More generic to the performance is a track like “Chasing Tail”, a mini showcase for Sandomirsky. Here his dynamic vibrations include stops, feints and swing allusions that burlesque and contrast with the saxophonist’s mannered split tones and growls.

More comprehensive smarts are expressed on tracks such as “Hotel Room Disasters” and “Cactus.” On the latter, if you ignore the whispering under their breadth from two voices, the piece happily opens up in its second half as Costa’s double tonguing and slurring glissandi slides to bottom tones as the pianist’s dynamics construct an intense narrative. Meanwhile a walking double bass line turns to bowing accompaniment on “Hotel Room Disasters” to cushion the saxophonist’s intense and high pitched sliding scream that wrings emotions from a single breath. Additionally while some variations may be reminiscent of the Lounge Lizards, the group turns out an exclusive Russian-French Blues on “Rush Hour Beauty” that matches slinky bull fiddle motion, nerve beats and rumbles from the drummer and Sam The Man Taylor-like slurs from Costa that almost makes up for his yodeling whimpers elsewhere.

Considering this serious-joking avant-traditional dichotomy continues until “Farewell Cocktail:, the brief concluding track, where Bluesy keyboard note clipping makes common cause with extroverted bar-walking-like saxophone slurs, the group confirms it can be subtle and swinging simultaneously. However emphasizing the kinetic keyboard playing and subtly tongued reed extrapolations would make the quartet’s future sessions more pleasurable.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Wide: 1. Wide 2. Radiancy 3. Leeway

Personnel: Wide: Francois Carrier (alto saxophone); Tomasz Gadecki (tenor saxophone); Marcin Bożek (bass and French horn) and Michel Lambert (drums)

Track Listing: Red: 1. Outta Town 2. Rush Hour Beauty 3. Chasing Tail 4. Where Is The Station? 5. Hotel Room Disasters 6. When Bars Are Closing 7. Dead Partners 8. Cactus 9. Farewell Cocktail

Personnel: Red: Fred Costa (tenor saxophone and voice); Gregory Sandomirsky (piano and voice); Vladimir Kudryavtsev (bass) and Piotr Talalay (drums)