Stephen Gauci / Sandy Ewen / Adam Lane / Kevin Shea

May 22, 2019

Live at the Bushwick Series

GauciMusic No #

Crux Trio +1

Up and At ‘Em

FMR CD 482

Established trios with one guest adding another instrument are featured on these all-improv CDs, but with each newly constituted ensemble so confident in its now connective fluidity that it sounds as if the quartets are regularly constituted groups.

Based in different UK cities, working in groups that play everything from Pop-Rock to Free Music, members of the Crux Trio share a background of studies at the Birmingham Conservatory (BC) To amplify the program on Up and At ‘Em, guitarist Barry Edwards, bassist Colin Somervell and drummer Ed Gauden added tenor saxophone Mark Hanslip, coincidentally an earlier BC graduate, a music instructor who also now plays with the likes of Nate Wooley. More diffuse in its three untitled performances compared to those on the other CD which have names, the music on Live at the Bushwick evolved from a long running Brooklyn-based music series curated by tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci, always featuring members of his own trio, bassist Adam Lane and drummer Kevin Shea, as well s other bands and guests. Core trio members who have worked with everyone from Daniel Carter and Vinny Golia to Moppa Elliott and Kris Davis, but on this session recorded with Sandy Ewen, who plays prepared guitar and has partnered folks like Damon Smith.

In pre-Brexit England, the quartets first “Breath” arrives after a series of field recordings of voices and static are gradually pushed aside by contrapuntal reed spurts, speedy finger-style guitar frails, low-pitched bowing on double bass strings and nerve beats from the drummer. This track and the subsequent “Spin” are suitably low-key enough to craftily set up the expectation that the entire session will be focused on elaboration of intermittent textures. Unexpected though, the group reaches a climax of exploding guitar licks, reed honks and drum bounces by the “Meddle” mid-point. That replacement theme reconfigures the melodic interaction to such an extent that subtle swing is revealed as single-string guitar snaps, drum smashes and walking bass line. In the foreground, as Hanslip and Edwards toss the narrative from one to another, the solid vibrations settle into a low-key groove which is only breached in the last track. In the session’s conclusive minutes, crying bent notes slurred forward by the saxophonist met stinging sound distortions from the guitarist to harden the final variations so that when the CD concludes you’re satisfied that a sonic transformation has taken place but aren’t quite sure how.

Ewen’s prepared guitar strokes are more distorted than anything Edwards does on Up and At ‘Em, but her role on the sessions seems to consist of adding decorative flanges and twangs to the thickened overblowing which characterizes themes propelled by Gauci. On this session though the two first improvisations featuring Shea’s cymbal splashes, Lane’s abruptly unexpected string slaps and slides plus chromatic guitar string oscillations and the saxophone spewing a molten stream of multiphonic buzzes and squawks. yet all of this presages the third tune’s extended theme variations. Wallowing in a narrative that is stretched, flayed and dyed in every color and direction by the four, part of the disc’s fascination lies in noting how many ways the saxophonist can distort the exposition. Beginning with savage axe blows-like like vibrations that snake upwards from pedal point to altissimo, a bowed bass line signals a break, with Gauci outputting so many basso split tone and false register glossolalia that a second baritone sax-like tone is almost audible. As the saxophonist appears to be creating novel variations with each breath, Ewen counters with freak notes, broken chord distortions and flanges. Eventually the penultimate sound elaborations include Shea’s snare rubbing and battering as the saxophonist’s high-pitched gurgles and gargles set off a new series of thematic variations, contrapuntally challenged with firecracker-like sprawls from the guitar and brought to decisive ending by bangs and rim shots from the drummer.

Close listening and responsiveness characterize the work of both these ad-hoc quartets. If one chooses to embellish its program in classic Free Jazz energy and the other with a more muted fashion it doesn’t lessen the skill of either.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Up: 1. Shake 2. Earth 3. Feet 4. Neck Deep 5. Weather 6. Birds 7. Quiet 8. Patter

Personnel: Up: Mark Hanslip (tenor saxophone); Barry Edwards (guitar); Colin Somervell (bass) and Ed Gauden (drums)

Track Listing: Live: 1. At the Bushwick 1. 2. At the Bushwick 2 3. At the Bushwick 3

Personnel: Live: Stephen Gauci (tenor saxophone); Sandy Ewen (prepared guitar); Adam Lane (bass) and Kevin Shea (drums)