Carter-Cook-Kowald-LaMaster: Principle Hope (2003)
As skillful a horn player as he is, Daniel Carter isn't much of a conversationalist. He's proficient on sax, flute, clarinet and trumpet, but in general it's best if he's the only one touching the horns. Without speculating as to why, it's safe to say that Carter is best heard solo or backed by strings and percussion. In tandem with another horn, he can, at times, show all the nuance of a tea kettle.
Which is why the projects he's been involved with on violinist Jonathan LaMaster's Sublingual Records have been some of his best. The previous Meditations on Unity and a 7-inch vinyl release paired Carter with LaMaster's Saturnalia String Trio, and Carter excels and riding the waves of the lush string sonorities.
Principle Hope continues that effort to repeated success. The omnipresent New Yorker (who's best known for his work in the free blow-out groups TEST and Other Dimensions in Music) continues to find a more delicate vein in this grouping of violin with a rhythm section made up of the late great Peter Kowald and Laurence Cook. Cook recorded with Carter's partner Sabir Matteen and Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, as well as appearing on ESP sessions in the ‘60s.
The group create the sort of interwoven textures that free improv strives for (or which it should, anyway). The players tumble and roll together, sax and string lines picking up after one another, while Cook's cymbal work doesn't create a drive so much as a sense of place. The eleven tracks work neatly as one (and come with a video track as to boot).
Recorded in March of 2002, this is one of Kowald's last sessions, but it's an ego-less swan song. He doesn't shine the way he did in solo and duo performance, but instead does the work of a good bassist: listening and laying a strong foundation. His Tuvan-tutored vocalizing appears on a couple tracks, a glimmering reminder of what was lost when he died in September. More than anything, Kowald was committed to building groups, and this is another fine one that benefited from his association.
Personnel: Daniel Carter - reeds. trumpet and flute; Laurence Cook - drums and electronic percussion; Peter Kowald - double bass; Jonathan LaMaster - acoustic violin, electric 6 string violin.