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Vocalist Fay Victor first appeared in the New York scene in the early '90s but soon moved to the Netherlands, returning in 2003. Victor's years abroad proved to be quite influential on her work, with a slightly Dutch aesthetic informing a quirky blend of absurdism, poetic lyricism and blues-influenced jazz styling. On The Freesong Suite, rather than presenting each tune on its own, the works are collaged together amidst an ongoing collective improvisation.
Room 1407 starts things off, Victor offering an emotional unaccompanied rendition of her song "Seasons" (which also closes the CD, with the full ensemble supporting her). "Dry" follows, bassist Ken Filiano
's looped pizzicato colors defining the texture upon which Victor's cryptic vocalizations float. Room 1093 begins with the sharp-edged chords of Anders Nilsson's guitar, leading into "Joe's Car," where Victor's knack for integrating irony and depth produces a heroically ecstatic setting for a story of an old friend's banal disinterest in adventure that awaits beyond life's mundane distractions. Room 1310 erupts with the quartet barreling through "Gone Fishing," intermittently collapsing into cartoonish melodies about fishing rods, dinner table antics and murder.
Each piece on The Freesong Suite gradually unfolds, emerging from a tapestry of improvisation to reveal precisely executed transitions, grooves and ensemble passages. "Night Ties" and "Heating Up" both revel in sentimentality, while other pieces careen to and fro, as on "Ideal Situation," where drummer Michael "T.A." Thompson takes an extended solo, leading into a drums/voice duo that calls to mind Abbey Lincoln