Tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin has always demanded a lot from his drummers. Having worked with some of the most virtuostic drummers alive, including Joey Baron and Jim Black, Eskelin has high standards for the rhythm sectionbecause his unpredictable, angular phrasing demands immediate attention and a lightning response. Dutch master drummer Han Bennink, of course, has long been one of the most in-demand players on the European free improvisation scene. Bennink played on a number of wildly successful duet recordings, as well as a string of five inspired Clusone Trio records. Eskelin and Bennink got together in NYC in January 1997, almost by accident, as part of a series of Bennink duets with American improvisors. They liked the results of this meeting so much that they decided to get together again. So Eskelin and Bennink went to Switzerland last December to play together in the Kulak recording studio.
The resulting product, Dissonant Characters, documents the sympathetic vibrations of two master improvisors who both thrive on the excitement of the unexpected. Outside the context of his usual composition-heavy trio, Eskelin appears to freely allow his muse to dictate the changes during play. Bennink moves from sporadic free tinkles to marching band drum beats in milliseconds, pushing and prodding Eskelin;s dry tenor throughout the hour of improvisation. A welcome addition to the growing heap of Eskelin material, Dissonant Characters presents two mature voices in active conversation at the peak of their powers.