Peter Kowald crisscrossed the United States for three months in 2000, playing at a multiplicity of venues in major cities with established area artists. His pilgrimage took him to Southern California, where he joined forces in a series of duet, trio, and quartet configurations with pianist Hans Fjellestad, pianist Dana Reason, and saxophonist Jason Robinson. Eleven of the selections on Dual Resonance document these interactive encounters.
Kowald died on September 21, 2002. On New Year's Day 2003, in honor of Kowald's memory, Fjellestad, Reason, and Robinson met again to record additional tracks. These memorial pieces are interspersed among the songs with Kowald in a fitting tribute to the bassist who had an uncanny knack for making friends wherever he went.
The three 'Dual Resonance' songs feature all four artists. The music expands on the aggressive piano sequences by Reason, abrupt tenor retorts from Robinson, and synthesized infusions by Fjellestad. Elsewhere, Kowald brings his unique style of bass playing to fore in the smaller settings. Long, linear arco strokes by Kowald initiate the sharing of improvised ideas, such as on his exquisite duets with Reason. She builds a tower with progressively stronger sound blocks as Kowald jabs, punches, and thrusts bass ideas at her. The combined output has significant appeal.
The dual piano tunes with Kowald are particularly alluring. Reason and Fjellestad cast differing projectiles to encircle Kowald within a sea of resonating notes, which he is able to tame with his pensive, melancholy lines. Fjellestad duels with the trio on synthesizer as well, where his sparks converge with acoustic bass and piano in a compelling jointure of compassionate playing.
Kowald had perfected a form of throat singing, which he would typically use to complement his playing on tour, but on these sessions with electronics and synthesizer supplements providing similar color, he eschews the process. With few exceptions, the individual entries are short exercises, yet each reaches full development and maturity in the short time allotted.
The memorial pieces are poignant. The music is fully open and free, but a sense of mournfulness prevails on each of them. Robinson makes his tenor cry out, and the pain of Kowald's loss is felt through his and the others' heartrending responses.
The music on this recording, however, stands on its own despite the emotions conjured by the premature death of the great bassist. It is a presentation of free expression by creative artists interacting with the idea of the moment. While the passing of Kowald places a different spin on the sessions, the music itself breathes in testament to the artistry of these four players.
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