Innovative saxophonists Jon Raskin and Phillip Greenlief use graphic scores for a series of recordings, each with a similar pair of instruments. These collaborations are called 2 + 2. The first of these is the provocative 2 + 2 with Jen Baker & Liz Allbee. As the title indicates Raskin and Greenlief join two brass players, trombonist Jen Baker and trumpeter Liz Allbee. The resulting music, both improvised and interpreted, is a stimulating conversation of four unique yet synergistic voices within a dramatic ambiance.
The musicians' exchanges are often abstract and sometimes impressionistic, as heard on the "Light Bending." Long, mournful, and clear collective phrases, halfway through, make a sharp angular turn and quiver with vibrato. Then they resume their straight path and hauntingly fade into silence.
Elsewhere, on "Geomorphs," two overlapping saxophones and Baker's growling trombone create crystalline structures. The tune's hard edges gleam with muted hues as Albee contributes to the expectant mood with her reverberating tones. Raskin and Greenlief engage in a crisp and clever dialogue while Baker and Allbee respond with long angst-filled lines. Passionate give and take of honks, squawks and delightful dissonance close the track.
Allbee opens the cinematic "Night Town" with a mellifluous solo that echoes in the enveloping silence. She stretches out on a complex and eloquent improvisation that ushers in a serene and gentle duet with one of the saxophonists. Pillowy growls, pops, and whistles coalesce into a hypnotic and eerie piece that conjures images of dark and deserted streets. Midway through an Eastern mysticism permeates the performance with chant-like drones and haunting melodies. Exploring the full range of their individual horns and the contrast in their timbers, the group concludes on a tranquil note.
This is a brilliant album that stimulates and moves with its adventurous spirit and its creative ingenuity. It is a multilayered work that demands attention from its audience. Hence, although not necessarily accessible to casual listeners, it rewards those who surrender to it with an open mind.
Tableaux; Geomorphs; Light Bending; Night Town; 2 + 2.
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