Jeff Kaiser / Tom McNalley: Zugzwang (2006)
Recorded live with no overdubs, this duo album features trumpeter Jeff Kaiser and guitarist Tom McNalley in a creative affair where noise plays a major role. The session is serious, contains plenty of motion, and comes with innumerable surprises. The album's title is a word that refers to forced movement, as in chess. How many times have we found ourselves sitting around wishing to pass on some opportunity or other when we find that we're compelled to take action? Apparently Kaiser and McNalley feel compelled to fill the room with sheets of noise.
Like a game of chess, the two artists face off with repeated demands from each other. Electronic noises ebb and flow in a continuous motion. Like the gray matter in our heads, the duo's session sizzles from end to end as if in deep thought. After the first thirteen minutes, a recognizable trumpet and guitar appear with something musical. Spanish ties pop up now and again, but the gist of their action is creative noodling. A few echoes are applied electronically, and the wall-to-wall noise does abate once in awhile.
For the most part, Kaiser is on fire with his squealing horn, while McNalley is equally creative with fingerstyle guitar antics. They both enjoy a fast pace, which at times resembles flamenco dancing. Their intensity is at that level and above.
The natural tension that arises during a chess match appears in the music that Kaiser and McNalley create. With an ear toward science fiction sound effects and another ear toward the instrumental warmup room, the two artists try on different sounds for size. Organic Symmetry differs from the album's usual pattern by focusing on both instrumentalists as plaintive voices in the wind. Call it a ballad. Muted trumpets echo forcefully while a standard guitar applies walking chords with genuine ease.
Aristotelian Blockade runs a similar course, but adds plenty of noise to the equation in order to achieve a balance. Most of Zugzwang, however, relies on wall-to-wall noise for its effects. This is creative music, but it's not for everyone.
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Track Listing: Carbon Fianchetto; Opening Demand; Systematic Imbalance; Both Varied Situations; Organic Symmetry; Abbreviated Structure; Luft Swapping; Zwischenzug; Aristotelian Blockade; Liquid Compensation.
Personnel: Jeff Kaiser: quarter-tone trumpet, electronics; Tom McNalley: electric guitar, electronics.