Shayna Dulberger / Gene Janas / Mario Rechtern / Adan Kriney

February 16, 2021

The Coalescence

ESP Disk 5050


And Roy Campbell

577 Records 5819

After years of being relegated to the underground of underground, un-hyphenated Free Music is now recognized as a genre onto itself with more sessions being added to this canon. Not only are new discs and reissues multiplying but hitherto unknown sets, recorded but not released are also appearing as well. More than specific snapshots of a particular time and place, albums like 1999’s TEST And Roy Campbell and 2007’s Exploding Galaxy encompass sounds as valid today as when created.

Particularly notable is the first set since its improvisation is the one time trumpeter Campbell (1952 -2014), whose associates ranged from William Parker to Joe Fonda, recorded with the co-operative TEST quartet, which seemed to gig everywhere in New York at that time. Consisting of drummer Tom Bruno (1932-2012), long an underground mainstay, woodwind players Sabir Mateen and Daniel Carter, who has their own histories with Parker and numerous other players throughout North America and Europe, and No Neck Blues Band’s bassist Matthew Heyner, the augmented band’s performance blazes with intensity from the top and continues for more than 47-minutes. With excited audience members shouting encouragement, the juddering sound mass undulates contrapuntally via pile-driver drum ruffs, capillary flutters, slippery snarls, squeaks and growls from Carter and Mateen, with the others paced by Heyner’s unyielding thumps. As Campbell’s splayed brass tones squeak upwards without losing a melodic concordance, the two reed players respond with multiple textural motifs from their bandbox of instruments, including an interregnum of chalumeau clarinet slides and vigorous saxophone split tones. Shortly before the mid-point, fire-engine-like squeezes from the horns become more moderated and harmonize to a moderate pace, leaving room for Bruno to showcase an almost continuous display of swift machine-gun-firing speed ruffs. At an adagio pace, altissimo tenor saxophone screeches finally join plunger trumpet work to create a slow, but not stately concluding riff.

Eight years later, free-for-all freneticism was still the order of the day on Exploding Galaxy’s three selections. Picking up where TEST left off with multiple gigs in every imaginable location, the Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy quartet brought echoes of Metal and psychedelica to its Free Jazz ethos, working with the likes of Arrington de Dionyso. Part of Owl Xounds combo variations, drummer Adam Kriney, spearheaded many of these collaborations, aided by bassist Gene Janas, who earlier on was in bands with Bern Nix. The other bassist Shayna Dulberger has worked with Mike Pride and Ras Moshe, while saxophonist Mario Rechtern has played with Fritz Novotny’s Reform Art Unit.

Performed with an overriding degree of intensity, the CD’s tracks vibrate with extended techniques and rhythmic motions, with tonal variations taking the place of any leaning towards melodies. Themes are present and often anchored by walking double bass thumps, though the ability to segue into strident sul tasto or speedy spiccato for one bull fiddler, while the other preserves the rhythm is always a possibility. Arco string stropping up and down the scale is c consistently heard as part of contrapuntal challenges to irregular alto saxophone tones and drum rat tat tats. Still when not breaking up his lines with sandpapery screeches and doits, Rechtern sometimes inject a Balkan-like lilt to his playing in an oboe-like registers. However slurry, nasal yowling reed and body tube explorations are more common from the reedist as harsh expositions solidify into sheets of sounds torque by string tolling unison plucks from both bassists.

Sprawling and combative, the quartet works the saxophonist’s multiphonic shrills and top-of-range scrams, the bassists’ echoing thwacks with detuned strings and cymbal scratches and pops into a sprawling non-narrative for the concluding “Aghast at Last’. True to the title, this sequence and the album itself finally ends, but without losing any of its spiky insouciance. This refusal to include more languid and melodic material is what separates these discs from more accommodating improvisations. It’s why these sounds were underground nearly 15 and more than 20 years ago. Yet for those open to challenges, it’s also what makes them so listenable today.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: And: 1. TEST and Roy Campbell

Personnel: And: Roy Campbell (trumpet); Daniel Carter (alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet, flute); Sabir Mateen (alto and tenor saxophones, flute, clarinet); Matthew Heyner (bass) and Tom Bruno (drums)

Track Listing: Coalescence: 1. Distillation 2. Cavernous Ode 3. Aghast at Last

Personnel: Coalescence: Mario Rechtern (alto and tenor saxophones, oboe, electronics and various apparatus); Gene Janas and Shayna Dulberger (bass) and Adam Kriney (drums)