Fifty-Fifty: Fragments (2010)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Entering the territory mapped by reeds/drums duos is a surprisingly risky undertaking, given the precedents: John Coltrane with Rashied Ali, Evan Parker with Paul Lovens, and the line-up of AMM that featured percussionist Eddie Prevost keeping the company of tenor saxophonist Lou Gare. For all its undoubted merits, the German duo Fifty-Fifty maybe just isn't ready to keep such fast company.
Often the music remains earthbound, for all of the duo's obvious empathy. The repetitive nature of Manfried Kniel's drum figures on "The Very Last Blues" recall the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, but there's little in the approach of the duo that's indelibly theirs.
The vaguely meditative quality of "Raga fur Vampire" is something else, howeverat least, until the studied use of near-silence echoes (insofar as silence can be said to echo anything those extraordinary silences that Prévost and Gare arrive at, by seemingly telepathic means. Prévost and Gare's music is more overtly free than it is in a lot of cases here, however, albeit without scaling the heights already established on record by others.
"SOS" is frustratingly brief at just under four minutes, although within that time the duo does manage to stake out some territory of its own, with the music becoming almost playful. To be sure, there's nothing of the furrowed brow about Fifty-Fifty's music anyway, and it's always a pleasure when the overbearingly earnest has no place, but the music is cut short in one of those seemingly arbitrary decisions that always happen in the moment.
"7 Steps To Hell" is a title rife with portent, but the music doesn't bear it out. Again, meditative notions spring to mindnot least, because, more than anything else, this piece encapsulates how quiet the music often is. Even at its loudest, the playing has a considered air, like something akin to the free jazz equivalent of the West Coast sound. This does, of course, make for a nice alternative to the sometimes vacuous primal screaming that some sub-Coltrane tenor sax players and their cohorts have gone in for; but defining music by what it is not and then trying to evaluate what it is is a pretty facile exercise. As it stands, in this instance there is music not without merits, but lacking qualities that render it highly distinctive.
Track Listing: Klagelied; The Very Last Blues; Honest; 7 Steps To Hell; Raga fur Vampire; Something Else; Wrong-Headed; Lullaby; SOS.
Personnel: Ekkehard Rossle: tenor sax, soprano sax; Manfried Kniel: drums, toy piano, whistle.
Record Label: Klangbad