MMM Quartet: Live at the Metz' Arsenal (2012)
World-renowned improvisers align for a meeting of the minds on this live date, spawning a multidimensional stance, where on-the-fly invention rules the roost. The breadth of each artists' scope and stylization yields a scrappy game plan, containing a succession of abstracts which move forward at a brisk pace. Electronics pioneer Alvin Curran supplies bizarre background treatments, intersecting many of the asymmetrical patterns or mimicking the group dialogues. In a sense, he offers a translucent perspective within the body of this polytonal extravaganza.
The electro-organic program is a scrappy one. With swarming convergences featuring master bassist Joelle Léandre's burgeoning arco lines and lyric-less vocal chants, the quartet dishes out unearthly dialogues amid a surfeit of fleeting counter maneuvers; sub-themes emerge, disappear, and morph into subsequent plans of action.
Saxophonist Urs Leimgruber intersperses microtonal language in spots, and also joins his teammates in numerous rhythmic exercises. The program is essentially underscored with either haunting outlooks or descents into subliminal, carefully engineered improvisational forums, especially on the 45-minute "Part One," the set's predominant track. Here, the musicians execute interweaving dialogues, and it's often hard to distinguish who is doing what. A magical aura pervades throughout, including a few lighthearted segments that elicit imagery of an avant-garde cartoon soundtrack.
With buzzing sax notes, creaky bass, and guitarist Fred Frith's assorted bag of tricks, the musicians occasionally generate a rough and tumble environ within a fractured loop They do calm the waters three-quarters into "Part One," providing some quiet time along the way. These artists are among the best in the business, irrefutably meeting or even exceeding expectations via this superior exhibition.
Track Listing: Part One; Part Two.
Personnel: Joelle Leandre: double bass; Fred Frith: guitar; Alvin Curran: electronics, piano; Urs Leimgruber: soprano and tenor saxophones.
Record Label: Leo Records