Meinrad Kneer / Ab Baars

September 8, 2010


Evil Rabbit ERR 10

Bertram Turetzky/Vinny Golia

The San Diego Session

Kadima Collective Recordings KCR 24

Although not as unusual as they would have been as recently as 20 years ago, duo sessions by woodwind players and bassists still necessitate having a bull fiddler participating who has seemingly limitless technique plus a bubbling fountain of ideas. The reason is simple, while the horn players has many keys he can sound – on more than one instrument on these discs – the bassist only has four tightly wound strings and a bow with which to work.

Luckily both bassists here are up to the challenge. Known for his skills in both the improvised and notated worlds, Bertram Turetzky easily complements Los Angles-based multi-reedman Vinny Golia’s work on The San Diego Session. Turetzky, who until his recent retirement, was a music professor at University of California, San Diego, uses a variety of instrumental feints and flourishes to mark his sonic territory. That isn’t surprising for a player whose versatility has allowed him to participate in sessions involving players as different as mainstream jazz pianist Mike Wofford and polymath trombonist George Lewis.

Recorded at almost the exact same time as the other disc but in Amsterdam, that is as close to the Atlantic Ocean as San Diego is to the Pacific, is Dutch bassist Meinrad Kneer. He proves to be as sonically adaptable as Turetzky on 11 instant compositions with Dutch multi-reedist Ab Baars. Baars, whose best-known affiliation is with the ICP Orchestra, brings his tenor saxophone, clarinet, shakuhachi and noh-kan to the session. Windfall demonstrates that this timbral collection didn’t faze Kneer. Versatility is his watchword. Although Kneer often records with prepared pianist Albert Van Veenendaal, he also works frequently with Jazz-Folk-Rocker guitarist Paul Pallesen and other leading lights of the Netherlands’ improv scene as saxophonist Tobias Delius.

One instance of the Baars/Kneer concordance occurs on “Bird Talk”, which links the bassist’s distanced creaks and shuffle bowing with shrill whistling and intermittent, high-pitched twitters with an Oriental cast, likely produced by Baars’ noh kan or bamboo transverse flute. By the piece’s completion, the reedist’s biting shrills are matched by the bassist’s spiccato scrubs.

Similar strategies arise on tunes using more conventional instruments such as tenor saxophone on “The Pledge” and clarinet on “Insinuated Instability”. On the first, Baars’ initial flat-line undulations ascend to continuous harsh reed blasts as Kneer crunches and scratches andante lines – his stretched tessitura unperturbed by the saxophonist’s concentrated atonality. As a matter of fact, when Baars produces double, triple and quadruple variations on certain note clusters, Kneer does the same by using bow motions and concluding passages that are both legato and basso. On the latter tune it’s Baars’ moderato clarinet lines which have to catch up, as the bassist’s finger-style accompaniment blossoms first with strums and twangs and then with sawing, crackling, single-note resonation. Downshifting to a gentler output as he solos, the clarinetist manages to interest Kneer in what could be baroque inventions, ending the piece with warm, near pastoral counterpoint.

In truth, the most effective duets involve Baars’ tenor, including “The Staircase Incident”, where between Kneer’s thick string-stopping and the reedist’s jagged and harsh cries, it sounds as if the two – without drums and piano – are attempting a Monk quartet emulation, with the reeedist’s Charlie Rouse-styled lines responding to the unheard other members’ contributions.

Elsewhere the saxophonist can accelerate to Aylerian heights, piling great gouts of notes and extensions into every breath, featuring tongue stops as well as sudden leaps into the altissimo register, while the bassist bows muscularly alongside him. Other tunes suggest the distinctive textures British reeedist Evan Parker brings to tongue flutters and growling cries. But the Dutch players output is more measured, a contrast to the circular breathing of the British saxophonist. Baars’ change of pace is likely the result of the pitch-slides, slaps and col legno undercurrents from the bassist which ground and centre the other’s improvisations.

Someone whose instrumental command is as notable as Parker’s, but who spreads his expertise over a lengthening collection of reeds, is Golia. Some of his droned, tongued or vibrated timbres here can be attributed to such easily identifiable instruments as baritone saxophone or flute; others appear linked to unusual tonal extensions, produced by pushing expected reed properties to their limits, resulting in bagpipe-like textures or those which could be produced by two chromatic pipes blown simultaneously. No matter which texture appears, Turetzky has the appropriate response to it, either arco or pizzicato, and often in broken chords.

For instance “The Tzadik Dances” mates discursive resonations produced by spiccato and col legno pops against the wood of the bass with swells and squeals from the baritone saxophone. Even as Golia’s multiphonics expand and turn to overblowing honks, the shuffles and double-stopping from the bassist is joined by mouthed sighs, whistles and groans that soon vocally expand Golia’s bag of tricks. Eventually the saxophonist’s low-pitched twitters and snorts are matched by contrapuntal sul ponticello rubs and finalized by a tough wooden slap.

Turetzky’s voice-extensions are put to good use on “That One”, when Golia’s staccato, altissimo-register clarinet or sopranino lines narrow to rapier-thin vibrations and single note peeps. Bottom tones are created by the bassist’s harmonically sophisticated string plucks and wood punches, as well as verbal growls and yowls. Fittingly, harsh stops punctuate the improvisation as well as end it.

With Golia capable of sluicing from below-ground chalumeau snorts to skyscraper-jumping altissimo runs, often congruently, Turetzky’s staccato and spiccato string strategies are always at the ready. Should Golia suddenly surprise by unrolling stuttering split tones or masticated pressures, then the bassist’s technique allows him to create resonating squeaks or bumps depending on the context. “Reading Rumi” for instance, where the reedist’s texture begins with chanter-and-bellows-styled rumbles, continue with peeping flute variations and conclude with subterranean snores from the bass clarinet, don’t faze the bassist. Among sul tasto line curves, thumping friction and knife-sliding string patterns, every chord structure and melody suggestion is met.

Double bass and woodwind duos may still not be that common. Nevertheless with these CDs both Baars and Kneer plus Turetzky and Golia prove they can work magnificently.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Windfall: 1. The Staircase Incident 2. Ant Logics 3.Windfall 4. Wood-wind 5. Long Way Home 6. Bird Talk 7. Insinuated Instability 8. The Pledge 9. Eastern Rudiment 10. Into Philosophy 11. Target Practice

Personnel: Windfall: Ab Baars (tenor saxophone, clarinet, shakuhachi and noh-kan) and Meinrad Kneer (bass)

Track Listing: San Diego: 1. Confucian Conundrum 2.That One! 3. Reading Rumi 4. Meditations and Prayers 5. My Lady Nancy’s Dompe 6. The Tzadik Dances 7. Il Italiano in Turco 8. Phantasmagoria

Personnel: San Diego: Vinny Golia (sopranino and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet and flute) and Bertram Turetzky (bass and voice)