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Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence

John Sharpe By

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Whether through economic necessity or artistic preference cornetist Kirk Knuffke's discography suggests a penchant for duets. Recent entries include Row For William O (Relative Pitch, 2016) with bassist Michael Bisio and Moon with pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger (NoBusiness, 2015). Fierce Silence with David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp alumnus Whit Dickey isn't even his first hook up with a drummer: that was The Exterminating Angel (NotTwo Records) with Mike Pride back in 2010. Certainly the cornetist thrives in such open situations, and Dickey makes for an intriguing partner across the ten concise improvisations.

Dickey exerts polyrhythmic control, maintaining different tempos simultaneously, often faster cymbals against more staggered drums. Although he recognisably hails from the jazz milieu, he rarely demarcates a steady groove, creating instead light and airy rhythmic environments against which Knuffke pitches his contributions. But that's not to say he's not responsive. At the end of "The Calling," Dickey reinforces Knuffke's fragmenting yelps with spare cymbal splashes. And you can almost hear the listening in the spacious and transparent "Step Back."

Knuffke melds an innate lyricism and a distinctive breezy tone which even extends to a voice-like purity, as on both the opener and the conversational "Leave It To The Wind." But he also varies his expression with muted split tones on "Stalker," and subterranean growls and raspberries and whistles on "Lodestar." Even though Dickey settles into a regular 4/4 at one stage in the same cut, Knuffke prolongs the tension by continuing his knowingly awry phrasing. However "Legba's Dance" provides a release from the occasionally inscrutable interaction, when Knuffke plays on and around the beat, resulting in punchy, almost funky exchanges.

Track Listing: The Calling; Fierce Silence; Step Back; Stalker; Lodestar; Quarry; Bone; Legba’s Dance; Leave It To The Wind; Ashes.

Personnel: Whit Dickey/: drums; Kirk Knuffke: cornet.

Title: Fierce Silence | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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