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Dominic Lash: Extremophile

John Sharpe By

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According to Wikipedia, an extremophile is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. By titling the second disc from his Quartet in this way you can't help but think that bassist Dominic Lash is drawing an analogy with the place of the improviser in the current commercially dominated environment, still persevering at the further reaches of the musical ecosystem. While Lash's quartet has persisted, the main change since the debut Opabinia (Babel, 2013), is that Alex Ward has been drafted in on guitar and clarinet to replace pianist Alexander Hawkins.

Although Lash doesn't hog the limelight his personality comes through loud and clear both from the choice and execution of four diverse compositions from his own pen alongside two offbeat covers and one group improv: it's an inquiring, wide ranging and irreverent mix. Lash creates a range of moods from the nervy skitters and sudden swells of "Puddle Ripple" to the almost chamber "Fumeux Fume" by late 14th century French composer Solage, which the bassist reimagines as a feature for Javier Carmona's scratchy percussion and full force drumming, confirming his adventurous outlook.

Lash clearly enjoys setting challenges. Such as how to make music from drones? Answered on "Pálpito" as a barely audible tone, like a persistent house fly, grows to crescendo, supplemented by Ricardo Tejero's circular breathed alto saxophone. Or how to use slow moving tonal blocks, explicated on "Slailing" as the alto/arco forms are eventually obliterated by Ward's rocky skronk guitar and Carmona's drums in a play of extremes. Ward is also an accomplished clarinetist, although he only uncases the woodwind for the perky piping "Unbeknowst," a gradually unraveling duet with Tejero also on clarinet.

In some ways Lash's (re)arrangement of Cecil Taylor's "Mixed, Mixed," which at 14 minutes takes up a third of the playing time, brings together the concerns of the preceding six tracks in a single package. From a mysterious opening emerges a repeated downbeat melodic phrase, voiced by Ted Curson's trumpet on the source album, but here by Tejero's pure-toned alto, which slowly takes on the unruly energy of a Taylor performance. A Later guitar/alto unison exaggerates the feel of the original until it resembles a carnival parade. The dense sound, easy switches between free and notated, and between standard and extended techniques act almost as a summation of the group's audacious aesthetic.

Track Listing: Puddle Ripple ; Mr. S.B. ; Fumeux Fume ; Palpito ; Unbeknownst ; Slailing ; Mixed, Mixed.

Personnel: Javier Carmona: Drums and percussion ; Dominic Lash: contrabass ; Ricardo Tejero: alto saxophone and clarinet ; Alex Ward: electric guitar and clarinet.

Title: Extremophile | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Iluso Records

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