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Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream

John Sharpe By

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Duets with drummers form the bedrock of cornetist Kirk Knuffke's whole musical experience, ever since jamming with a friend in high school. Consequently, Drone Dream constitutes the third such twosome to appear in his discography. And he obviously finds drummer Whit Dickey—still best known for his tenure with fiery saxophonist David S. Ware and adventurous pianist Matthew Shipp—a sympathetic foil as it's the second entry with him behind the traps, following on from Fierce Silence (Clean Feed, 2016). The wonderful sound on this studio-recorded LP (also available as a download) permits full appreciation of every nuance of texture and timbre.

Like the previous meeting, this is an encounter founded upon sensitive ongoing dialogue, although conversational metaphors don't do proper justice to the stream of understated yet entirely apt overlapping statements. It rather resembles two people talking at the same time, but clearly in response to one another, recalibrating continuously like a satnav taken off-route.

Even in these freewheeling settings Knuffke's lines retain a melodic core, a link back to his parallel jazzier output on the Steeplechase imprint. But his tone remains gorgeous whatever the surroundings, though it can come modified with a vocalized edge, buzzing growls or haunting moans. Dickey similarly draws on a richly-colored palette, freighted with micro-rhythmic detail, though in this duo his playing is more stripped back and tuneful than in many of his groups. He reveals a sense of narrative as he repeats motifs on one part of his kit, then moves on, superimposes or layers other phrases in a spare polyrhythmic throb.

Both men embrace silence during their thoughtful, unhurried interaction. There's a lovely passage on the opening "Soaring" where Knuffke elongates and subtly modulates the pitch of a long note so it gains an individualized human voice-like dimension. The piece builds to a sort of climax, only to drop off to just a single cornet exclamation, answered eventually by a percussive flurry before picking up once more. From the distant annunciation of "Weave 1," to the wistful melancholy of "Weave 2," and the diaphanous lullaby-like hush of "Legba Sequence -Dream 1," spacious exchange holds sway. It's not until the closing "Oblique Blessing," where Knuffke's short, rousing cornet figures elicit a spirited response from Dickey, that the pulse quickens.

This isn't the place to look for fireworks, but there's more than enough sure-footed, warm, dramatic interplay to satisfy and engage.

Track Listing: Soaring; Weave 1; Weave 2; Legba Sequence - Dream 1; Legba Sequence - Dream 2; Oblique Blessing.

Personnel: Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Whit Dickey: drums.

Title: Drone Dream | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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