Zlatko Kaućić / Ab Baars: Canvas

Budd Kopman By

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Slovenian drummer/percussionist Zlatko Kaućić (Kaučič) was very busy in 2013-2014. The meetup with pianist Milko Lazar for Ena / One took place between November, 2013 and March, 2014. The disc at hand finds Kaucic performing with Dutch reedman Ab Baars, recorded in October, 2014. Baars is well known in the free jazz side of the Dutch scene.

As expected, the music is quite different although the intent is the same: to bring together two free improvisers and see what happens. Recorded at the Alchemia Club in Krakow (no audience), (like the meeting between François Carrier and Rafal Mazur for Unknowable), Kaucic and Baars produced seven tracks that are at once mystifying, intimidating, amazing and a lot of fun.

The opening track "Paint Up Your Visions" is almost twenty-two minutes long and stops completely feigning an ending almost exactly in the middle. The sounds Baars gets are astounding, as is the interplay between him and Kaucic. What might seem chaotic at first takes on shape and form with close listening and a "letting go" or "wait and see" attitude. The intelligence and direction behind the seeming randomness becomes apparent as the track progresses. "Vrtilljak" is a tour de force percussion piece in which Kaucic manages to keep a pattern going while playing intensely around it.

Each of the rest of the tracks has a different way of holding together in that there is some melodic fragment, technique or overall sound. On "Polder Wind's," Baars sounds like he is playing the clarinet without a reed, sounding at times much like a flute. "Strup," at sixteen minutes, the second longest track begins as a percussion solo, with tuned gongs attracting attention. Baars enters with some overblowing at first, but then a three-note scale fragment appears and is repeated, twisted and stretched enough that it becomes recognizable as a theme.

The last three tracks ("Mimogrede," "Sputa" and "Almost Danceable") share the sound of what might be called "melodic refraction." This means that what Baars plays sounds like it could be a melody, but the phrases of which are so displaced rhythmically and tonally as to hint at the ur text but never gives it away. Think "Mary Had A Little Lamb" with the familiar notes displaced in varying octaves with their time values altered. One might intuit that what is heard has something familiar about it, but never quite get what that something is. This "refraction" is quite attractive and compelling and brings the music closer to the listener.

And yes, "Almost Danceable" is, well, almost danceable, ending an extremely intriguing session that manages to achieve a familiarity and even charm with repeated listens.

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