From the opening strains of the first track this trio punches gaping holes in any notion of regarding them as typical chamber jazz ensemble. The requisite instrumentation is in place- reeds and strings. But the resultant music is a distant cry from the sweet sonorities and austere contemplation so often associated with such a set-up. The program here is packed with sharp corners and plummeting drops as the players forcibly rending the sonic fabric, at times mercilessly. Any reservations about the customarily naked CIMP sound interfering with audibility of the strings are summarily demolished when the bows of Duval and Prentice strike their respective instruments.
“Two” ignites in a streaking phosphorous arc of smoldering bow resin and knotty alto sputters. Duval and Prentice saw away shaving off abrasive harmonics that carry a bruising bite. Oswald closes it out with a cascade of fluttering reed whispers. “Four” is of a different ilk, opening with a measured pizzicato preface from Duval. Oswald’s upper register whinnies enter creating a hovering counterpoint of staccato slap-tongued pops. “Five” starts as a feature for Prentice’s brittle arco work, but Oswald soon joins in blowing frothy gusts as Duval covers the bottom frequencies, also on bow. One of the most striking feats is the way in which Oswald seems able to mimic the tensile timbres of Prentice’s violin. There are points where it takes a carefully cocked ear to distinguish the two players.
The remaining pieces follow an analogous abstract pattern dealing in lightening quick interplay and undulating waves of intensity and volume. On “Six,” the disc’s lengthiest piece, the altoist deals in extended, siren-like squeals broken by flurries of desiccated honks. Duval’s fingers mumble underneath the topside din poking out fractured walking lines in answer to Prentice’s friction-laced scribbles. The bassist abstains from “Coda” leaving his partners alone to uncover a macabre swathe of skeletal harmonics. Odd misfires arise as well, such as “Nine,” which starts promising, but never seems to gain footing despite some precision manuevering by Prentice.
Considering the parameters of their configuration these three improvisors construct an impressive body of tightly woven sounds. Consumed in a single sitting the nine tracks may leave behind some aural indigestion, but each taken on its own terms is a study in high caliber collective improvisation. Thanks are in order to the CIMP crew for having the faith and fortitude to preserve them.