Superficially, these two trombone dates couldn't be more different, but both exhibit a startling and refreshing attention to microdetail and prodigious technique from all involved. Both also attest to the perpetually tasty fruits born of long-term collaboration.
Nils Wogram/Simon Nabatov
Between the Lines
Trombonist Nils Wogram and pianist Simon Nabatov have a long history of playing in each other's groups and this is their third duet disc. They have fashioned a prime example of the multifarious subtlety, inflection and rhetoricized history that has come to typify certain types of "free" jazz. While much of the material is composed, classical modelsthrough composition in particularare invoked as much as the improvisational gestalts usually associated with that increasingly problematic term "jazz." What is without question here is the energy, commitment and precision with which both players attack the material and yes, the results can be wonderfully violent.
Nothing exemplifies this better than "Fall, a study in multilayered counterpoint and juxtaposition. It begins languidly enough, building slowly, through composed intricacies, until a dance-like section, stereotypically Latin-tinged in Jelly Roll Morton style, brings delicate frenzy to the proceedings. The same is definitely true of the title track, an energetically driven contrast to "Ballooning, which is as lovely a piece of Romantic music as one will ever hear. Nabatov is playing a beautiful and well-recorded instrument and each of the opening notes hangs suspended over a dreamy void, complemented beautifully by Wogram's breathily "vocal" utterances. It is to Wogram's credit that he can blow over the changes that eventually ensue and Nabatov's pianism is impeccable here as it is throughout.
Kurt Heyl/Ben Wright
Gross Motor Music
Another longstanding partnership is celebrated in this new disc, and anybody familiar with Paul Rutherford's Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie (Emanem 1976/1997) will know what it means when it is said that moment-to-moment disunity is the duo's modus operandi.
The comparison is especially apt concerning the sections in which Heyl vocalizes, Meredith Monk or Joan La Barbara fashion, such as "GMM6, and the results are quite effective. This monster twelve-part composition might be considered a magnification or expansion of Rutherford's '70s improv. Where he might tap a mike or play inside the bell of the horn, something in "GMM10 sounds like a huge stapler ready to destroy the world and while it most likely is Heyl, who really knows? Braps, squeaks, rustles, groans and slides abound, not to mention long meditative peaks and slopes, but the recorded sound is always dry enough so that detail does not get overabsorbed.
The environs throughout the disc are quite different, as it was laid down in several studio settings, but the playing is consistently inventive; where such microtonal musings can often become routine in these days of "Been There, Done That, Heyl and Wright keep things moving with a huge sonic vocabulary and many humorous moments.
One can't help but relish the thought of a union of these two duos, because between them, a large and vibrant cross-section of jazz history would be covered in fine style. Failing that, these are great additions to the respective artists' catalogues.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Fall; Lay Low; The Move; Ballooning; Itapo; Herbie and Pierre; Simple Sentiment.
Personnel: Nils Wogram: trombone; Simon Nabatov: piano.
Gross Motor Music
Personnel: Kurt Heyl: trombone; Ben Wright: bass.