Saxophone and drums duosusually that means tenor saxophone and drumsgot serious in the mid 1960s, when pianist McCoy Tyner
and bassist Jimmy Garrison
would lay out during performances by John Coltrane
's classic quartet to allow Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones
to pursue their mutual shamanistic muse together.
One such occasion is preserved on One Down, One Up, Live At The Half Note
(Impulse, 2005), recorded in 1965. On the title track, first Tyner, then Garrison drop out, leaving Coltrane and Jones to first raise the roof, then tear it off completely. Coltrane later devoted an entire album, Interstellar Space
(Impulse, recorded 1967, released 1974) to saxophone and drums, this time with Rashied Ali
. It is a great album, but "One Down, One Up" is hard to beat.
Fast forward to London in 2015, and tenor saxophonist Binker Golding
and drummer Moses Boyd
, aka Binker & Moses, picked up the Coltrane and Jones baton and ran with it on their outstanding debut album, Dem Ones
(Gearbox), making the grooves yet more primal. Two more blinders followed with the double album Journey To The Mountain Of Forever
(Gearbox, 2017) and Alive In The East?
Not all saxophone and drums outings, however, are as single-mindedly visceral as the aforementioned beauties. Among the highlights of 2020a very good year for duo recordingswas a series of downloads by ex-London tenor and soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock
and her partner, drummer Tom Rainey
, under the generic title Stir Crazy
, made while the duo were holed up in their Brooklyn apartment. When the feeling takes her, Laubrock can walk a virtual bar as honkingly, screamingly, dirtily as Big Jay McNeely
ever did. But she is an infinitely nuanced player, as is Rainey, and the Stir Crazy
recordings are as multihued as a rainbow and their dialogues are up close and forensic.
The young German duo of tenor saxophonist Christopher Kunz
and drummer Florian Fischer
parallel the Laubrock-Rainey model rather than the Golding-Boyd one. Their starting point is one of delicacy and subtlety and melodicism and, except for a down and dirty moment during "Netting" midway through Die Unwucht
, that is the space they inhabit throughout the album.
In English, "die unwucht" means "imbalance," and the joke, intentional or otherwise, is that the two players are in fact in perfect balance at all times. During the seven tracks, all of them first takes created in the moment, Kunz and Fischer's relationship is deeply symbiotic; not, as the cliché so often puts it, psychic, but one of listening intently to each other at all times and reacting accordingly. There is give and take but neither player ever tries to dictate direction to the other. As Albert Ayler
said of the creative process between himself, bassist Gary Peacock
and drummer Sunny Murray
during the making of Spiritual Unity
(ESP, 1965): "We weren't playing
, we were listening to each other." Such sensitive interaction often results in uplifting music, and it does so here.
First Intake; Pflock; Weber; Netting; From Another Time; Pedestrian Mode; Leuchten.
Christopher Kunz: tenor and soprano saxophones;
Florian Fischer: drums.