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Drummer Christian Wolfarth and saxophonist Donat Fisch first recorded in this formation more than ten years ago. Circle & Line 2 is the Swiss duo's reunion and an unique free jazz achievement. Saxophone and drum duos rarely become an artist's defining work. It is a difficult format, requiring extraordinary creative effort to maintain variety and interest. When master musicians like Anthony Braxton and Max Roach approached it, the result was an unstructured exchange between very different musical comfort zones. Peter Brötzmann has been in this territory as well, producing the expected and dominant spontaneous combustion. Even when Wolfarth and Fisch released their original Circle & Line (Unit Records) in 1999, it was more in the experimental vein with eighteen short and freer-standing pieces.
Circle & Line 2, while having a very improvisational feel, is both harmonious and even-handed. Wolfarth utilizes every part of the drum kit but doesn't attempt to throw the whole lot into any of the nine tracks. On "Merlodie" he brushes the cymbals to create an ambient background countering Fisch's blues influenced lines. "Maria's Blues" is dominated by tom-toms creating a subtle Afro-Latin background that at first contrasts Fisch's long lines, before the two seem to absorb each other's sound. Wolfarth supplies a staccato beat from the snare or concentrates on using sticks and the rim at various points. The collective effect is a diversity of sound that is largely responsible for maintaining a high level of interest throughout the set. "Elva" wraps up the set in a way that brings the duo together in a perfectly harmonious closing.
Fisch, whether on alto or tenor, applies extended, fluid melodies throughout the collection and his playing is beautiful. The lesser-known of the duo, he is an extraordinarily talented and versatile player who reflects many of the obvious saxophone influences but has his own distinctive style. Fisch seems to prefer the lower registers but occasionally covers the full range; he can sound as soulful as Bennie Maupin, as blazing fast as John Coltrane, and knows how to draw on silence as well.
Though Circle & Line 2 fits neatly into the free jazz genre, there are no wild excursions here. Wolfarth never generates noise and Fisch is not given to honks and screeches. This is restrained improvisation that is readily accessible and very often elegant in a way that is not often associated with free jazz. There is a consistently harmonious organization all through the set. The duo creates the feel of a fluid surface; never far from either edgy or level but definitely closer to the feel of Euro improvisation than that of American free music.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...