The key difference between the resonance of stringed instruments and the saxophone, to pick one example, is due to the material of the respective instruments. Wood boxes vibrate as a result of the strings being attacked and muted; metal vibrates as a result of embouchure, breath and the opening and shutting of valves. That difference illuminates much of this recording. The continuously bowed strokes of the first part of Reqiphoenix Nexus
immediately wrap you into a powerful resonance radiating from the stringed instruments of the C.T. String Quartet: bassist Dominic Duval, cellist Tomas Ulrich, violist Ron Lawrence and violinist Jason Kao Hwang.
The timbres of each instrument are so vividly clear that the music is fully balanced. Every kind of sound that you could imagine coming out of the strings does so without any additional alteration. The overall sound is large because the instruments are all playing together without tearing each other apart or canceling each other out.
The musicians work with each other tersely, adamantly and instinctively. Rapid, fierce bowing takes you right off your seat. Elegance yields to roundness, and the brusqueness is often overpowering. The instruments dance with each other; agitated movement complements legatos; high pitch complements the mid to low range. Or pitches are isolated and link to or become subsets of other mixtures of bowing and pizzicatos. The intensity and continuity that this group generates is quite remarkable.
In the second of the three parts on this recording, Joe McPhee participates. At the outset, the strings provide a staccato base for McPhee's soprano sax, which he plays with vibrato and arpeggios that makes the horn ring like the strings. This act in itself reveals the subtlety of the difference between the resonance characteristics from the strings and what it takes to produce the same kind of resonance with the horn. As this part progresses, each instrument has entered the same stream of intent. The strings are unified and the horn floats on top as a shining element over the C.T. String Quartet's depth of tone.
The third and last part to the recording is a lengthy homage to an essence that gleams above sameness, somewhat like the image of a red rose implanted on a black and white photograph of snow that is on the cover of the record. It begins with the cello offering a solemn expansive overture. Gradually the other instruments enter, playing counterpoint to the main line. The bows rip and scrape, indicating bitterness and struggle. A certain rhythm keeps the instruments tied to one another and moving in the same direction. The instruments carry a curiosity and drive to find solace.
The road here is not easy. I can see the bows hitting the strings, pressing the strings, grinding the strings and moving back and forth hard and fast. Towards the end of this part, the violin takes off in a swinging fashion, comes back to the sonic thistle patch where the stepping is lively, and returns to the bent-pitch swing. The bass and cello have been right there all the time, large and strong and bold. The violin and viola join in to augment a slow march to a soft pizzicato close on the bass.
Reqiphoenix, which was recorded at the Knitting Factory in 1999, transcends the time that has passed since then. It is as fresh and succinct as if it had been recorded yesterday.
Personnel: Dominic Duval: bass; Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Ron Lawrence: viola; Tomas Ulrich: cello; Joe
McPhee: soprano saxophone (2).