After three albums by his Liquid Trio, Catalan pianist Agusti Fernandez
augments the regular line up of drummer Ramón Prats
and saxophonist Albert Cirera
with guests bassist Barry Guy
and reedman Don Malfon. In the liner notes, Fernández traces the original threesome's lineage back to the Alexander von Schlippenbach
Trio and, by implication, to their forebears, the Cecil Taylor
Unit. Although, in his realization, the band retains the energy of free jazz, the emphasis on sonic exploration pushes them further along the continuum towards improv. But even though the message might be beyond easy comprehension, there is a palpable sense of shared purpose to the delivery.
For the ten selections from this studio session, Fernández breaks the group down into different sub-units, resulting in four cuts by the entire company, two quartets each with a single saxophonist, one trio, and three duos. Fernández appears on every number bar two of the duos.
Straight from the off, the group set out their stall in a percussive onslaught which belies the instrumentation, constructed from all manner of scraping, rasping, tumbling and pattering, as if a group of poltergeists had taken possession of a musical instrument store. The two saxophonists trade clipped distortions before gradually easing into an exchange of yaps and squawks. The concluding layers of whoozy reed tones and high arco bass seem almost meditative in relation to what has gone before.
As their quick-witted duet on "Fire Rose No.4" demonstrates, both guests fit right into the group ethos. Guy's hyperactive squalls and unconventional techniques put him squarely in the front rank, while Malfon often distorts his already extreme sound with a metallic reverberation. It is not until the third piece, a trio with Cirera and Guy, that Fernández moves from the piano's innards to the keys, where his preparations produce a dampened tolling sonority, paced by rattling bass and squealing sax.
Further burly showings come on "Fire Rose No.6" where he sweeps up and down the keyboard in a rapid fire Morse Code, and "Fire Rose No.10" where he pursues the opposite of the usual trajectory, changing down from intense to expansive, all the while partaking of inventive give-and-take with his unruly crew.
Appreciation of this sort of music can be subjective but, if you listen closely, this is one of the best examples of its kind.
Fire Rose No.1; Fire Rose No.2; Fire Rose No.3; Fire Rose No.4; Fire Rose No.5; Fire Rose No.6; Fire Rose No.7; Fire Rose No.8; Fire Rose No.9; Fire Rose No.10;
Agustí Fernández: piano; Albert Cirera: tenor, soprano saxophone; Don Malfon: alto, baritone saxophone; Barry Guy: bass; Ramon Prats: drums.