The first cooperative venture between Israeli reed man Assif Tsahar and Japanese conceptual percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, both based in New York, focused on investigating the more abstract regions of free jazz (Come Sunday
, Hopscotch, 2004). Tsahar exerted more control than sweaty power, and Nakatani proved himself a most singular and versatile percussionist. Nakatani hardly ever uses a regular drum kit and is very close in spirit to another sonic master, German percussionist Paul Lovens. On Solitude
, with the KJLA string quartet, they expand their sonic studies further into free-form tone poems.
Out of the nine tracks on Solitude, eight are group improvisations, and the title track that concludes this disc is a Duke Ellington standard. The first track, the tender "Love Is," sets the dark tone for this release. Tsahar's somber bass clarinet soars over Nakatani's murmuring bells and the drone of the strings. The sonorities on the longest track, "Unmoving," are more abstract, and the strings sometimes sound as if they are imitating overtone throat-singing. They add to Tsahar's breathy blowing on the tenor sax and Nakatani's distant drumming until all the tension climaxes in muscular interplay. "Sand Between a Toe" is more playful and the sax and strings play a sort of hide-and-seek game.
The tone poem "The Epistemology of Loss" (dedicated to poet John Berryman, after one of his well-known poems, "The Ball Poem") and the following track, "Of Amazing Most Now" (dedicated to poet e.e. cummings, after his famous poem "i thank You God for most this amazing"), are dense contemplations that capture the realization of loss in the Berryman poem and cummings' sensory bewilderment.
"Blue Sun" retains the same tense, dark atmosphere. The tones become more clearer on "Falling," where Nakatani's tap drumming interlocks with the pizzicato strumming of the strings while Tsahar's bass clarinet navigates the turmoil into more coherent lines. Only then does violinist Audrey Chen manage to stand out with her exceptional technique. This continues on the free-improv "By and By," where all the members of the string quartet are much more prominent. The strings on Ellington's "Solitude" sound a bit dry and detached, but Tsahar contrasts this deficiency with a rich and soulful tone.
Solitude managse to draw a cohesive aesthetic that is very similar in spirit to earlier high-energy efforts by Tsahar, with more colors and shades, more control over expressivenessbut still same intelligence and passion. It may demand more from the listener, but it guarantees an exceptional reward.
Personnel: Assif Tsahar: reeds; Tatsuya Nakatani: percussion; Kate Hernandez: violin; Jean Cook: violin;
Ljova: viola; Audrey Chen: cello.