Mars Williams/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tim Daisy

January 18, 2014

Moments Form
Idyllic Noise IDNO 0010

Henrik Walsdorff/Adam Pultz Melbye/Kasper Tom
Barefoot Records BFREC O22 CD

With a legacy and a style now as established as Hard Bop or Classic Jazz, so called Free Jazz has become a legacy unto itself. Thus when assessing sessions like these, the proper course is not to compare how they sound viz-a-viz other forms of improvised music, but how well the sounds are presented. The answer in both cases is very well indeed. Although both were recorded in Europe, the cast and orientation of these live trio CDs is decidedly different. For all intents and purpose an unedited pick-up session, Grøn was recorded in Odense, Denmark’s Dexter jazz club, and features Henrik Walsdorff, a visiting alto saxophonist from Berlin, playing with two experienced Danish musicians: bassist Adam Pultz Melbye and drummer Kasper Tom. Both Danes are members of the Barefoot collective, with Melbye having worked with the likes of tenor saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Tom with distinctive improvisers like bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall. Someone who prefer not to be a band leader, Walsdorff has been a member of bands led by Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Ulrich Gumpert

Since they all have Chicago connections, the trio on Moments Form is more of a working group, whatever that means in the 21st century. Reedman Mars Williams has been a consistent free-form experimenter for years, whether it was in the NRG Ensemble or Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet. Drummer Tim Daisy is also one of the city’s busiest, working with everyone from saxophonist Ken Vandermark to trombonist Jeb Bishop. Although he now lives in Texas, Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten was for a time based in Chicago, and is now as likely to show up with an American band as a European one. This CD was recorded live at an Austrian jazz festival in St. Johann in Tirol about three months before Grøn.

More compact and interactive, the three tracks capture a performance whose exposition highlights an out-and-out sonic assault. Mostly via Williams’ multiphonic soloing, the sounds jerk and judder extravagantly, eventually reaching a satisfying termination point following a gripping demonstration of Håker-Flaten’s string command. Throughout, Daisy serves as the temperate foil. Cymbal claps, bass drum smacks and a general pattern of paradiddles and bumps join with the bassist’s raunchy scrubs and stops to create a responsive ostinato to the horn work. This rhythmic motion cements the continuum enough so that Williams becomes as fearless in his soloing as a trapeze artist trying new tricks with the assurance that a safety net exists on which he can depend if acrobatics get out-of-hand.

With a reed style which seems to be made up in equal measures of the shrillest extensions of Jackie McLean styled Hard Bop, plus rubato expansions into glossolalia favored by Albert Ayler, Williams is all about split tones, note swallows, whines and cries. At times introducing Middle-Eastern overtones, the saxophonist`s pitch leapfrogs from beyond altissimo to below chalumeau, with nearly continuous solos that are as electrifying as they are concentrated. Not to be outdone, the drummer’s rim shots and the bassist’s buzzing strings announce their equal contributions, allow pressurized exhilaration to sweep over the performance and set the pattern for the pressure-releasing conclusion.

If Williams’ soloing is electrifyingly staccato then Walsdorff’s is impenetrably obtuse and screamingly multiphonic. With a rubato interface that highlights free meters, endless variations and unstoppable timbre exploration, the antecedents to his saxophone solos are Sonny Rollins’ theme deconstruction, Ornette Coleman’s primitivist cries and Eric Dolphy’s throat-catching tone expansions. Solid but secondary, Melbye’s torquing string-strums and Tom’s shuffling backbeat add weight and gravity-grounding to Walsdorff curving variations. Verbally encouraged by at least one Dane, the saxophonist regularly corkscrews his tones into a paroxysm of reed ferment. Like the interface on “Moments Form”, but even more so, his reed exposition finally subsides enough to create breathing room in response to harsh scrubs from Melbye and Tom’s percussive crashes. Contrapuntal narrative variations divided among the three finally create a climax. As good as this is, imagine how much better the improvisations probably were after a tour that followed and which fully cemented each player’s contribution to the whole.

At points as exhausting as they are exciting these go-for-broke trio improvisations will be welcomed by any rabid Free Jazzer. Not shocking anymore, but part of an ongoing tradition they portend many more memorable sessions from all concerned.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Grøn: 1. Klub 2. Totam 3. Halloum I 4. Polska 5. End

Personnel: Grøn: Henrik Walsdorff (alto saxophone); Adam Pultz Melbye (bass) and Kasper Tom (drums)

Track Listing: Moments: 1. Moments Form 2. Galactic Ballet 3. A Disjointed Stutter

Personnel: Moments: Mars Williams (tenor and alto saxophones); Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Tim Daisy (drums)