May 9, 2023

Crying in Space
Relative Pitch RPR 1149

Tactical Maybe
Tactical Maybe
Barefoot Records BFREC 075 CO

Applying the textures of two saxophones in a creative music setting is demanding ,especially if the improv is extended exclusively by a bassist and a drummer. Yet these quartets overcome any shortcoming, albeit in original fashions. Ironically the geographical make up of each group is a reverse mirror image of the other.
Crying in Space features Trondheim-based alto saxophonist Mette Rasmussen joining three American for an intense Free Jazz program. Her cohorts are veteran alto/tenor saxophonist Paul Flaherty, plus two younger improvisers: drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Zach Rowden. The drummer and saxophonist especially have worked extensively with numerous international improvisers as has Rasmussen. Meanwhile Tactical Maybe’s members are closer in age, although all have considerable experience. However here it’s US bassist Tom Blancarte working with three Danes: reedist/flutist Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen, drummer Halym Aabo-Kim and tenor saxophonist Nana Pi Aabo-Kim, all of whom have international as well as Scandinavian playing experience.

Rasmussen/Flaherty quartet’s slices of noisy excess could easily have been recorded in The New Thing’s 1960s’ heyday, with the tracks based around the saxophonists’ projecting as many split tones, overblowing and Bedlam-like speaking-in-tongues motifs as can be imagined. While the rhythm section moves the pieces horizontally with press rolls and tough string drones, the saxophonists create their own version of pushing reed timbres to their limits, but intermittently combine for Aylerian harmonies. Following the introductory section of “The Hesitant Nature of Doubt (Shadow Chase)” however, the front line confirms its individuality by showcasing strident doits and surges at andante as well as prestissimo tempos. Further identifying themselves, Rasmussen concentrates on bugling cries, while Flaherty creates a snarling basement tone obbligato. Climax come when tolling drum beats and sul ponticello string slices form a backdrop to vocal yodels and screams as well as reed multiphonics. This strategy is followed during the rest of the date. But while the brief final track is a responsive summation of connections among altissimo reed squeaks, percussion rattles and double bass thumps, the second, “What to Expect When Faking Your Own Death” had already picked up the intensity from the first track. However it’s a tribute to the saxophonists’ sophistication that among the tongue slaps, yakkity sax slurs, high-pitched screeches, aviary twitters and duck-like honks, they create a call-and-response riffs which separates one’s vibrations from the other’s while solidifying an interlude that is both almost lyrical and leathery.

The odd vocalization pops up from the Tactical Maybe crew, but its’s on the concluding “Cantabrian Circle” that each player emphasize droning gurgles, neighs and retches creating a parallel exposition to the saxophone smears and scoops that are otherwise exhibited throughout the program. Divided among nine other tracks, this quartet avoids many of the aleatory excesses of the other without falling into mainstream tropes. The members also achieve more tonal variations since Jensen plays alto, baritone and soprano saxophones, flute and alto clarinet, Pi Aabo-Kim manipulates objects as well as tenor sax and Blancarte adds euphonium tones to his bass playing. In short any player can take the lead, with themes encompassing contemporary and cutting-edge impulses. “Inverted Wingers” for instance moves from a subtle double bass strumming introduction to crying alto saxophone textures that stretch the measured exposition further and further until both saxes dig out multiphonics completed by tolling drum paradiddles. “Occupation” on the other hand moves into New Thing territory with concentrated, super-powered reed pressure as saxes honk and slur into screaming split tones that further divide into slide-whistle peeps and droning snorts by the finale. Alternately a track like “Parthian Shot” evolves with one horn’s unaccented air intersecting with droning static from the other to reach a confluence of bugling tones and rugged flattement. This redefine the theme just as jagged metallic stops emanate from the bassist along with drum hops and plops. Elsewhere rasping string slices and drum thumps go up against baritone saxophone tongue slaps and tenor saxophone stutters; or both saxes amplified echoes move into place to unfold alongside multiple string pulls and rubs from Blancarte. Still for every irregular reed, string or percussion vibration there are also measured pulses that keep the arrangements linear, and progress mostly mid-range.

Probing the outer limits of reed techniques or moving in and out of time during thematic evolution, each session illustrates a canny adaptation of two-reed interface within a progressive quartet setting.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Crying: 1. The Hesitant Nature of Doubt (Shadow Chase) 2. What to Expect When Faking Your Own Death 3. Industrial Sabotage Friday 4:21

Personnel: Crying: Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone and objects); Paul Flaherty (alto and tenor saxophones); Zach Rowden (bass) and Chris Corsano (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Tactical: 1. Scorched Earth 2. Space Clearance 3. Parthian Shot 4. Encirclement 5. Force Dispersal 6. Inverted Wingers 7. Double Attack 8. Flying Wedge 9. Occupation 10. Cantabrian Circle

Personnel: Tactical: Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen (alto, baritone, soprano saxophones, flute, alto clarinet, voice, electronics); Nana Pi Aabo-Kim (tenor saxophone, voice, objects); Tom Blancarte (bass, euphonium, voice) and Halym Aabo-Kim (drums, voice)