Blaise Siwula: Projection: Zero; Transphonic Dimensions & Hommage an Klaus Kinski
Blaise Siwula / Carsten Radtke
W.O.O. Presents Mambo Mantis
Nobu Stowe-Lee Pembleton Project
Saxophonist Blaise Siwula has been an active participant in New York's 'underground' jazz scene for the past two decades. Although he released several recordings on independent labels, it wasn't until the millennium that he started garnering attention. Siwula is a committed free player and his highly unique sound couples a dry throaty wail with a command of his instrument's entire range and a wavering vibrato that's very effective.
Projection: Zero is an all-improvised duet session between Siwula and German guitarist Carsten Radtke. Radtke not only plays improvised music, but is also an interpreter of 20th century guitar literature, having performed and recorded the works of Berio, Davidovsky, Brouwer and others. On this disc he displays a clean, jazz-based tone with a rich harmonic sense. Occasionally, he'll click on an effects box but that is not his dominant mode. He and Siwula are well matched, engaging in a conversational dialogue and all of the give and take that implies. There are solo passages, moments where one takes lead and the other comments and also some remarkable synchronous interplay. Yes, Siwula occasionally reaches for the intensity for which he is known but this set is remarkably relaxed. It's a real joy to listen to and also presents a side to Siwula's art that has heretofore only been sporadically documented.
Mambo Mantis is a project of New York-based saxophonist Bonnie Kane in which Siwula is a participant. Also aboard for Transphonic Dimensions are drummer Ray Sage and guitarist Will Redmond. While the orientation is still toward free improv, the music takes on more of a fusion cast. On certain tracks there's almost a hardcore energy with Sage laying down a fierce rhythm and Kane and Siwula wailing over top. With judicious use of electronics (mostly by Kane but also coming from Redmond) it sounds like this is a much larger group than four pieces. Occasionally the spirit of Sun Ra seems to be looming over this band, especially on "Clouds Of Thunder" where Kane is playing flute and Siwula is on tenor.
Pianist Nobu Stowe has been a frequent musical partner of Siwula's and they've collaborated on a pair of Konnex releases (New York Moments and Brooklyn Moments). Siwula also appears on Stowe's most recent release, Hommage an Klaus Kinski, a set co-led with sound designer Lee Pembleton. It's a shifting personnel with a full quintet unit occupying two rather lengthy pieces. The music comes at the listener in waves of sound, swirling around with varying degrees of intensity. Stowe cites Keith Jarrett as a prime influence and, like Jarrett, Stowe is a melodicist at heart. But elsewhere his style is closer to Paul Bley's more harmonically open approach, especially in his darting lines on "Duo II-E." Pembleton's role seems to function as a wild card; he's there to assure that the others (including clarinetist Perry Robinson) don't fall back on their cliches as well as to sculpt the sound. At times, his sounds are identifiable: birdsong, water etc. But mostly his electronics consist of sweeping washes, harsh zaps and burbling whirlpools. The two lengthy quintet tracks have a tendency to meander between some genuinely thrilling moments of intersection. At times, when the full group is playing the sound is messy and cluttered. The smaller groupings are more successful, especially Stowe's duos with Pembleton. Despite some flaws, Stowe and Pembleton are attempting to come up with something unique.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: WuWei Ways; Chance Meeting; Was It The Eastside; There Are No Goodbyes; Whoz Surprise; LynBrooklyn; If I Saw This; It Happened Tomorrow.
Personnel: Blaise Siwula: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Carsten Radtke: guitar.
Tracks: Reggae Sunrise; Like A Dishwasher; Now The Leg; Clouds Of Thunder; Out Of The Box; China Pang; Starts And Stops; Zep; Sox 1; Sox 2; Bleed.
Personnel: Bonnie Kane: saxophone, flute, electronics; Blaise Siwula: reeds; Will Redmond: guitar; Ray Sage: drums, sequences.
Hommage an Klaus Kinski
Tracks: Duo I-A; Quintet III; Trio III-B; Duo II-E; Quartet; Trio II; Quintet I-D; Duo II-B; Hommage An Klaus Kinski; Round Midnight.
Personnel: Nobu Stowe: piano; Lee Pembleton: sound design; Perry Robinson: clarinet, micro-ocarina; Blaise Siwula: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet; Ross Bonnadonna: bass clarinet, alto saxophone, guitar; John McLellan: drums.