The most basic foundation of what makes music interesting is the idea of give and take. Be it the dialogue between the soprano and bass in counterpoint, the call and response of sections within a band or the understated reactions of a rhythm section to a soloist, the elemental device for creating music of length is the idea that when one voice makes a statement, another voice must react. Pair this discussion between a piano and a drummer, with the potential to create an entire orchestra's worth of melodic, harmonic and percussive content, yet shared between the abilities of just two musical minds. Here you have the potential for everything between the musical equivalent of a symphony itself to nothing but good ol' silence.
These three piano/drum duos tap into a musical legacy of over 50 years, much of it pushing the boundaries of genre definition and all of it improvised.
Since recording his debut album Introducing Paul Bley with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey in 1953, Paul Bley has become one of the seminal individuals in jazz piano, alongside Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor and Monk while Danish drummer Kresten Osgood has performed with the likes of Sam Rivers, John Tchicai and Dr. Lonnie Smith. The treatment of the first two tracks on Florida, "Darkness which is a solo piano piece and "Light which is solo drums, are indicative of the depth of thoughtfulness that defines Bley's playing. He builds his musical expression of darkness to an explosion on the very bottom end of the piano, basking in the drama of voluminous sound. Any other pianist would have ended the piece there but Bley picks back up, coming back in with a motif from earlier in the piece and gently fades out on that. Being able to pull off complete anticlimax and yet have it work so exquisitely suggests something of a complicated outlook on the idea of darkness. Osgood follows suit with his performance of "Light , rising to the challenge and painting an image of light that both succeeds as an antithesis to Bley's performance and yet carries his introspective flow. As both interesting vignettes on a track-by-track basis and taken as a suite with each track invisibly linked together, this is an album to be listened to from front to back to be truly appreciated.
Drummer Jimmy Bennington and pianist David Haney come together for a second round of duos on Our Dialogue, following duo work they did together for Haney's Volume Two of his three-part small ensemble series. The record features mostly originals with two interesting treatments of the Herbie Nichols tunes "Twelve Bars and "Pretty Prancing Woman . The concepts of pocket and time feel are never too far out of the ears of this exploratory duo, Bennington spending much of the disc playing time in what could be described as post-bop drumming two steps removed. Haney often takes the forefront with a tendency for short-scope motific development, little chordal interplays that are stated, fleshed out a bit, but soon discarded. Indeed with Bennington and Haney's seeming reluctance for unified dynamic development, Dialogue seems to refer to small talk, an exploration in the realm of improvisational chit-chat, much like an album of trading fours.
Percussionist Heinz Geisser, founder of NYC improvisational group Collective 4tet and mathematician, theoretical physicist and pianist Guerino Mazzola, author of The Topos of Music, which applies the advanced mathematical concept of topos theory to music, have covered an enormous body of work together in many formats. For Live at Airegin, they explore all things fortissimo. Starting out with a long drum introduction, the piano finally enters the foray aggressive and ready to dance. It does not take long for these two to connect and they continue fast paced and dynamically intense for the next half hour. On one track they are joined by Yuki Saga on vocals and Takayuki Kato on electric guitar, though the terms vocals and guitar are somewhat of a misnomer in this case. Saga's falsetto incantations of nonsensical vocal noises are somewhat reminiscent of what a Teletubby would sound like if it were being tortured for war secrets while Kato's guitar is utilized not so much for the frets but as a conduit for sound effects. All in all, through the frantic flourishes and sonic screaming these musicians definitely still show through as being expert improvisers and quite an ensemble unit.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Darkness; Light; Fluid Head; Arches; The Beaten Track; Told You So; Meeting of the Minds; All the Things You Are; True Blue and Gold; Backlash.
Personnel: Paul Bley: piano; Kreston Osgood: drums.
Tracks: Twelve Bars; Favorite Chairs; Susanna; Fatima, Mi Amor; Pretty Prancing Woman; The Gemini; First Dialogue.
Personnel: Jimmy Bennington: drums; David Haney: piano.
Live at Airegin
Tracks: The Skyliner; Nu.
Personnel: Heinz Geisser: percussion; Guerino Mazzol: piano; with Takayuki Kato: guitar; Yuki Saga: vocals on track 2