May 23, 2023

el NEGOCITO Records eNR 077

Hugo Costa/Philipp Ernsting
The Art of Crashing
New Wave of Jazz NWOJ 0055

The Netherlands’ long time reputation for promoting freedom of expression has certainly been confirmed in the field of free music. Not only have local improvisers established themselves internationally, but exploratory musicians from elsewhere have gravitated there as well. So it is with these fine instance of freeform playing from two saxophone-percussion duos. Horn-Drum was recorded in the participants’ Amsterdam home base, but tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Natalio Sued and drummer Marcos Baggiani are both Argentinian. As well The Art of Crashing was artfully created in Rotterdam by two city residents who are actually German (drummer Philipp Ernsting) or Portuguese (alto saxophonist Hugo Costa). Sued and Baggiani who also work in ensembles with Oscar Jan Hoogland, divide their interactive program into 11 mid-sized tracks. There are only six tracks from Costa and Ernsting, who elsewhere work with the likes of Gonçalo Almeida, but their playing heightens intensity, which is already heavily torqued on the other CD.

“Ritual” is the most extended and unique exchange on Horn-Drum. Rather than projecting the widening multiphonics as he does in many other sequences, Sued echoes toneless breaths backwards as Baggiani colors the exposition with intermittent light plops and sympathetic gong-like metal claps. Still any move towards minimalism is scotched before the ending as raucous reed smears confirm hardness as well as harmony. While other tracks may touch on melodic relaxation, it’s rapidity not repose which characterize most of the disc. Taken at march tempo, “Memorias Del Futuro” for instance allows the saxophonist to slide, doit and soar with reed textures both Latin-like and reflecting Sonny Rollins dot-dash stutters. Backed by pitter-patter paradiddles from the drummer, the final section becomes an andante stroll, juddering on high-pitched snare snaps. Baggiani’s ambidextrous pacing also dominates the more technical “Waynu” where the saxophonist emphasizes inner metal vibrations from his instrument in the form of snarls, bites and scoops. On the other hand, “Dialoog” gives full rein to the drummer’s press rolls, rim shots and paradiddles. He creates technical expansion at the same time as maintaining linear flow as Sued’s trills and flutters retreat to the background. Overall with widening and diminishing textures which modulate to project wood, skin and metal drum aspects and every vibration from the reed ranging from gaunt sniffs to breathy snorts exposed, the two connect progressively as they undulate through the selection balancing the straight-ahead and the speculative.

More aggressive and abstract in their interactions, the Rotterdam-based duo coordinates convulsive reed shrieks with minimal but powerful anchoring percussion coloring, Costa and Ernsting construct and then extend many of the tracks, but with enough cohesion so that the linear thread remains. “Blind Spot” for instance is taken prestissimo, with cymbal patterns, paradiddle pops and subtle metal clunks cushioning the reed work. Costa’s strained clarion squeaks and bites present a logic of their own as he appears to examine every single note and its extensions, sometimes in Aylerain altisssimo until wooden drum pops signal the finale. Although near-toneless breaths and percussion rattles make up the sonic landscape elsewhere, the most distinct impression comes when the duo is in free form. There’s even some quick changes involved. The introduction to “Nowhere Fast” for instance, suggests that it will become a standard Bebop melody, that’s quickly shattered as the drummer subdues his backing to hushed nerve beats and bass drum resonations. Concurrently the saxophone toughens his story-telling beeps and blips to repeated honks mixed with split tones and soon bulks up his output to continuous multiphonics. As doits, flattement sand sopranissimo screams are exhibited in turn the piece climaxes as exploratory as it was traditional at the top.

Stripped to essentials of wood, metal, skin and cork, it’s easy to see why so many questing musicians take up this minimalist challenge. Additionally these discs show exactly what sort of quality sounds can be created in this configuration.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Horn: 1. Lip-Stick 2. Waynu 3. Circular Playing 4. Memorias Del Futuro 5. Horn – Drum 6. Origen 7. Bijna Song 8. Ritual 9. The Second Time You Have Said Never Again 10. Dialoog 11. El Misterio De La Noche

Personnel: Horn: Natalio Sued (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Marcos Baggiani (drums)

Track Listing: Art: 1. Oase 2. Twine Engined 3. Blind Spot 4. Nowhere Fast 5. Spookstaad 6, Drink it Now

Personnel: Art: Hugo Costa (alto saxophone) and Philipp Ernsting (drums)