While some musicians thrive in a group setting, reedman Blaise Siwula's preferred setting seems to be the duet, dating back to Tandem Rivers (Cadence Jazz), with bassist Adam Lane. On Big Hearts his sound on alto is as broad and full-figured as you're likely to hear. He's brawny and bluesy on the title track, popping and tongue slapping on "Adventures in Knuttel Land and on "Guardian Dogs he covers the ground between anger and wistfulness with roars and whispers. But Siwula is even more impressive on clarinet ("Rose Garden at Deserted House ) where pianist Katsuyuki Ikatura's light-but-variable touch and unwavering discipline fuel the barrelhouse accompaniment to Siwula's Dixieland inflections.
Collected from live, spontaneously improvised in-studio performances outside of Detroit and in New York City, 11 is a low-fi, low-budget, low-key limited edition that pairs Siwula with violinist Mike Khoury. The 9-minute opener sets violin and alto in unison, Khoury deliberately back and forth with his bow, Siwula circular breathing through his horn, before Khoury breaks off for a Civil War solo and Siwula reclaims the performance with playing that is biting and tart. When Siwula picks up the soprano, Khoury reacts by establishing an Eastern European gypsy vibe. On clarinet, Siwula's woolly, woody sound contrasts perfectly with the violin's acidic screech.
Where Siwula is understated and self-effacing, Adam Lane's foil on Music Zero Degree, veteran multi-reedist Vinny Golia, is voluble and extroverted. If an instrument runs on breath Golia can play it, but for this session (the first part of which was released on CIMP last year) it's only tenor and soprano sax. On "Birthday Song , Golia plays with rich, sustained authority, while on "Spin With This Earth , Golia's questing licks hover above Lane's chunky basslines. In the end it's drummer Vijay Anderson and Lane's rhythms that elevate this otherwise conventional trio to a cut above the rest: as someone counts off the start of "To Avenue X , the bass runs, before it realizes all it needs to do is walk.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Katana; Guardian Dogs; Botanical Dreams; Playground Tango; At Mid Night; Big Hearts; Storm Dance; Mountain River; You Don't Know What Love Is; Rose Garden at Deserted House; Space Time Continuum; Adventures in Knuttel Land
Personnel: Blaise Siwula: clarinet, alto & soprano saxophones; Katsuyuki Itakura: piano; Ryusaku Ikezawa: drums
Tracks: Duet 1-8
Personnel: Blaise Siwula: clarinet, alto & soprano saxophones; Mike Khoury: violin
Music Degree Zero
Tracks: Spin With This Earth; Free; Without Being; Running Upsidedown; Dance; Birthday Song; To Avenue X
Personnel: Adam Lane: bass; Vinny Golia: soprano and tenor saxophones; Vijay Anderson: drums