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Tomas Ulrich: Tomas Ulrich's Cargo Cult (2009)

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Tomas Ulrich: Tomas Ulrich's Cargo Cult How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Recorded live in February, 2007 in Kingston, NY, If You Should Go unveils the distinction among three separate string instruments: the cello, the guitar and the upright bass. As Tomas Ulrich on cello, Rolf Sturm on electric and acoustic guitars and Michael Bisio on bass trade leading musical lines, so do they each reflect how they feel in response to one another in statements that are as diverse as their instruments can sound.

Perhaps the title of the album itself lends a blue note to the sense of the session. Ulrich's strident, searing solo bowing at the top of "The Last to Know," begins telling of a story of extremes, perhaps of pain and questioning, midst melancholic memories of joy and wonder. At the end of the cello introduction in the first track, the bass enters, slowly building an equally torrid stronghold but with deeper resonance. Bisio's sound is counteracted and aided by the higher pitched fingering on the electric guitar and mid-range strokes on the cello. Overall, the emotional content never wanes nor diminishes as the strings integrate and clash, or divide once again.

The process changes from one piece to the next but the album's thematic dynamic recurs in all of them. Ulrich takes care of exposing that ardent, tumultuous rigor with his cello attacks ("Existential Fragility"), even if that means forging a gut-wrenching lyricism with either his bowing or pizzicato technique ("Rains End," 'If You Should Go"). A seemingly light rhythmic approach that the trio takes with the electric guitar in the lead can progress into a massive cello run, the bass providing detailed, fluid and appropriate pizzicatos in the background ("So Do You"). When Bisio explores his own territory, moreover, his instinctual motion is vividly disposed: the strings can creep through aural space to a snap on a pizzicato routine or he can wield his bow broadly, confidently, with a husky luster, without restraint ("The Last To Know"). Bisio's background support never fails to enlighten the predominant line whether it is from the cello or guitar. Frequently his supporting figures rise as elegant features in the stream of the music ("The Last To Know," "If You Should Go").

Sturm's single note fingering and strumming work on the guitar supplies a softening agent to the rips of the cello and even rescues it ("The Last To Know," "If You Should Go"); the bass provides the same function. Sturm's solo display on electric guitar proceeds easily from the cello ("If You Should Go") and can artfully conveys a high to low range, looping one phrase though another as if to stretch the web spun by all the strings to its limits.

Ulrich transforms the cello into a songstress, whose arias display an acculturated sense of the world that is more than musical. As the drama reigns, unequivocally, the trio's work is being done.

Track Listing: The Last To Know; So Do You; Rains End; Existential Fragility; If You Should Go.

Personnel: Tomas Ulrich: cello; Rolf Sturm: electric & acoustic guitars; Michael Bisio: bass.

Record Label: Cadence Jazz Records

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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