November 15, 2022

The Deep
Mahakala Music MAHA 038

Joel Futterman
Intervals 2
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 15/2022

Recognition and affirmation of the capabilities of isolated improvisers, these sets, featuring Virginia-based pianist Joel Futterman show that creative music can be nurtured off the beaten track. Of the four players featured, only one, New York bassist William Parker lives in a major centre. While others on The Deep are Minnesota drummer Steve Hirsh, who has played with Eri Yamamoto and Arkansas-based reedist Chad Fowler, who has recorded with Matthew Shipp, the amalgamation also confirms the necessity of seeking out other musicians with similar interests. Despite geographic distance, the single improvisation on the quartet disc appropriately blends each member’s skills. And while Intervals 2 is an example of Futterman’s responsive solo architecture, he was also involved in long term collaborations with New Orleans’ Kidd Jordan and Mississippi’s Alvin Fielder.

Segmented into three tranches on Intervals, Futterman’s pile-driver or pastoral inventions are supplemented on “Part Two” by a series of aviary flutters and peeps from his vibrating wooden flute playing. Soon he blends those pitches with wide strums across the piano’s internal string set, then subsumed those squeaks beneath ascending chordal and andante echoes, climaxing with two handed keyboard exploration that balances low pitches with tinkling detours. As for the other tracks, each is designed to express varied keyboard strategies. As percussive and packed as the textural elaborations on the first track may be, the contrasting dynamics and buzzes still evolve with a Blues undercurrent. As for “Part Three”,  the back-and-forth juddering emphasizes both keyboard clips and swirls as well as internal pulsations which shake the capotes, backboard and soundboard as much as the piano strings.  Furthermore, despite a centre section that resonates with classic formalism, the final sequence alternates between energetic string twangs, keyboard jumps and rolling syncopation. It’s this relaxation into swing motif that completes and defines the sequence.

Futterman’s metronomic chording is just as broad and vibrating as on his solo disc, but on The Deep they’re contrasted with the wavering whines coming from Fowler’s staccato bites on the little-used stritch. As the pianist and reedist work upwards with energetic counterpoint, Parker’s stolid pulsations propel the exposition, aided by Hirsh’s judicious use of focused pops. With the pianist’s prestissimo energy splintering piano tones into mere shards, Fowler responds with altissimo cries, slurs and doits as the bassist adds staccato arco sweeps. One-third of the way through prestissimo gives way to a slower pace, signaled by drum echoes and rim shots and crab-walking single note emphasis from Futterman. However robust vibrations from Fowler with elevated corkscrew variations preserve density, which is maintained so that the feel is more sound sheets than song. Swirling dynamics from Fowler and the pianist are emphasized in the final sequence until the energetic meld finally stops.

Conspicuous instances of Futterman’s sometimes unrecognized skills as well as those of Fowler, Parker and Hirsh, the discs also confirm that excellent creative music doesn’t just emanate from New York, Berlin and London.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Intervals: 1. Part One 2. Part Two 3. Part Three

Personnel: Intervals: Joel Futterman (piano and wood flute)

Track Listing: Deep: 1. The Deep

Personnel: Deep: Chad Fowler (stritch); Joel Futterman (piano); William Parker (bass) and Steve Hirsh (drums)