Vincent Courtois/Daniel Erdmann/Robin Fincker

October 4, 2023

Nothing Else
BMC CD 311

Ricordi Del Tardigrado
Setola Di Maiale SdeM SM4530

Matching two horns with only one accompanying instrument is a challenge, since each player must fill melodic or rhythmic gaps potentially exposed by this miniaturization. Approaching the setting from different perceptions, these trios show what can be done. Depending on Italian drummer Stefano Giust’s cadences, Ricordi Del Tardigrado’s three long improvisations also work off the intersection of timbres from Italian flutist/saxophonist Paolo Pascolo and Columbian saxophonist/clarinetist Mària ‘Mange’ Valencia. Centred around melodic evolution meanwhile, is the established group of German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann, British saxophonist/clarinetist Robin Fincker and French cellist Vincent Courtois on Nothing Else. Pascolo has worked with Giorgio Pacorig; Valencia with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten; and Giust with numerous international improvisers. Fincker is also a member of the Bedmakers band; Erdmann is part of numerous Aki Takase projects and Courtois plays with Louis Sclavis among others.

Twisting and turning among flute peeps, tenor saxophone slurs and drum paradiddles, the members of Politácito expand the interface on top of Giust’s nerve beats, rim shots and Mylar slaps by blending thin transverse variations from the flute with strained flattement and shrieks from the saxophone. By “El Nacimiento de los Orangutanes (part 2)” however, pennywhistle-like shrills and descending aviary shudders give way to a series of clarion reed mewling as both Valencia (alto) and Pascolo (tenor) bring out their saxophones. Using a combination of shuffles and resonation on unattached cymbals the drummer lightens the mood, but not before the horn players challenge the narrative, code-switching as flute lines toughen and descend while reed doits ascend to treble tones. When the concluding “Il Ginocchio d’Anatra” arrives, the horn players theme variations which have ranged through many pitches and tempos solidify and cease, but not before Giust has set asides his percussion rattles and scratches to signal the ending with a car horn blast.

With the reverberating plucks of Courtois’ cello as the anchor, the reed players on Nothing Else have scope for technique and theme variations during the disc’s 16 (!) brief tracks, most in the three-minute range. Splitting the instant compositions into two suite of eight tracks each, during Part 1, the trio members gradually work up to the extended “Kuopio”. Before that the cellist links disparate motifs with tropes that range from lyrical interludes to formalist treble melodies and from the drone of rhythm guitar-like stops to place-making sul ponticellos string squeals. That means Erdmann and Fincker can harmonize or fragment contrapuntal or call-and-response strategies with an appropriate sonic safety net. One for instance lets loose with an emotional high-pitched scream and is answered with percussive tongue slapping. Or one produces hunting-horn-like echoes and the other up-the-scale squeals. Fincker’s clarinet is most prominent on “Kuopio” as his high-pitched twitters brush up against low-pitched tenor saxophone vibrations. Pizzicato cello projections suggest subtle swing despite reed output becoming more discordant. Resolution comes in the form of linear puffs from the reeds and a conclusive singular string pluck.

Although the second suite starts off with a lighter and flightier tone than Part 1, as “Garana” turns into “Corregio” the cumulative tone variations seem more numerous than previously. As the three echo, swirl, soar and briefly circular-breathe, the polyphonic result suggests that studio overdubs could be multiplying the number of timbres heard. Unlike the previous sequence however “Tartu “, the final track is a quiet summation of Part 2’s numerous extensions and detours, Without sounding gloomy – although there are melancholy, darker and stentorian passages on the previous tracks – lyrical reed harmonies and swelling string glissandi complete the program with textures that are smooth, moderate and melodic at the same time.

Neither trio set is all harsh or all hushed, but modify the prevailing motifs with deviations to prevent sameness. As well, each proves how different formations with only two horns and a rhythm instrument can sound.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ricordi: 1. Resonancias Orientales 2. El Nacimiento de los Orangutanes (part 1) 3. El Nacimiento de los Orangutanes (part 2) 4. Puntiagudos Ocultos 5. Il Ginocchio d’Anatra

Personnel: Ricordi: María ‘Mange’ Valencia (alto saxophone and clarinet); Paolo Pascolo (flute, bass flute and tenor saxophone) and Stefano Giust (drums and cymbals)

Track Listing: Nothing: Part 1: 1. Madona 2. Saalfelden 3. Budapest 4. Gronigen 5. Wroclaw 6. Ulm 7. Portland 8. Kuopio Part 2: 9. Garana 10. Corregio 11. Abja-Paluoja 12. Port Louis 13. London 14. Monoblet 15. New York 16. Tartu

Personnel: Nothing: Daniel Erdmann (tenor saxophone); Robin Fincker (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Vincent Courtois (cello)