A musical voice is hard to acquire for one musician much less a quartet. But there is always a beginning. The musical ingredients need to be simultaneously strong and viable. Compatibility of the instruments stands out as an element of connectivity. And the willingness from the band members to stick together is the glue that assures that a "sound will come through.
Bassist Michael Bisio leads such a band, formed in January 2005 and made up of Avram Fefer and Stephen Gauci on saxophones and Jay Rosen on drums. All the music on Circle This, the follow-up to the quartet's first release Connections (CIMP, 2005), was written by Bisio, with the exception of one piece, composed by his brother, Bob Nell.
The fundamental basis for the music on this recording is the dynamic of the horns. Fefer and Gauci require a stalwart, exacting rhythm section to counteract the ebullient tonality of their horns and that is exactly what Bisio and Rosen provide. However, the bass alone retains the privilege within the stream to re-instill the music with a softness of character and encourage the sustenance of light-heartedness within serious exploration. Bisio rises repeatedly throughout the recording to quell any potential for jaggedness. The manner in which he and Rosen, both together and individually, overlap the horn lines, smoothly moves the music forward and the transitions from one aspect of the music to another happen effortlessly.
Bisio's music sets a standard for the horns to employ unison and harmony as a center from which improvisation can emerge and to which it can return, exemplified perfectly by the title cut. On "Its Own Universe, the two horns by themselves can follow through in this same process without violating the pursuit of staying together except to take a breath or two. However, the horns can diverge from a unified purpose in "Times That Bond. The tenor and soprano conversation goes in two different directions from the outset, but about mid-way the soprano resets the commotion and the two eventually blend harmoniously to close. For the remainder of the recording, the horns unreservedly embrace the musical limits that Bisio has defined.
On the whole, Rosen's spry stick-work especially on the cymbals manifests a solid responsiveness that along with the string bass anchors the instrumentation. When the drum and bass take off on their own ("By Any Other Name ), they extend a sensitivity to sound that is tantamount to tiptoeing. When Rosen takes off on his own ("Island Circus ), he controls the clarity of the sound resulting from every gesture he makes. It is as if the drums have no other way to operate except by Rosen's hand.
The title of this recording is no misnomer. It describes the essence of Bisio's design. Nothing can alter the linearity of music, including its capacity to circle back on itself, renewed and fresh, ready to continue into infinity.
Personnel: Michael Bisio: bass; Avram Fefer: tenor and soprano saxophones; Stephen Gauci: tenor saxophone; Jay Rosen: drums.