John Russell / Ståle Liavik Solberg: No Step (2013)
Separated by two generations, Russell's guitar and Solberg's percussion work share the same DNA. The guitarist was a key figure in the founding of the London improvising scene of the 1970s, traveling a similar path as Derek Bailey. His musical vocabulary eschews convention for originality and a unique sound. Unlike Bailey, he is comfortable in solo, small settings and larger ensembles.
Russell and Solberg have toured as a duo and in quartet settings with Englishmen John Edwards and Steve Bereford. Solberg, like Norway's other drumming export Paal Nilssen-Love subdues his punk rock inclinations for a more inward-looking, thoughtful sound here. With excellent sound, the recording of the pair intersects throughout with no conspicuous soloing to be found. Russell applies micro-bursts of itchy scratchy sound that pours forth with percussive touches and cascading notes. Unique to his approach to free music is that his sound is never masked as something else. He is comfortable making music with a guitar that sounds like a guitar.
Perhaps Russell's comfort is why he is a perfect compeer. He gives Solberg permission to rub out passages on cymbal, twiddle pulse on snare, and reply without hesitation to his notes. The percussionist's playing is equally self-possessed and imperturbable. That makes for a excellent free improvisation.
Track Listing: No Step.
Personnel: John Russell: guitar; Ståle Liavik Solberg: drums, percussion.
Record Label: Hispid