During twenty plus years of collaboration, drummer Drori Mondlak and saxophonist / flutist Karolina Strassmayer have perfected their creative chemistry. Their highly individual styles are, nevertheless, seamlessly complementary resulting in a unique sound that marks their superb releases. Their eighth, the haunting Freescapes, is an absorbing work with an undercurrent of subtle mysticism that showcases this synergy and splendid musicianship on nine interlinked tracks.
Opening with "Sing To Me Of..,," a duet between the co-leaders, and closing with Mondlak's unaccompanied "Octopus Dance," the album maintains a sublime balance of tense mood and raw spirituality. The former tune is eastern flavored and features Strassmayer's meditative alto saxophone meandering within Mondlak's resonant, atmospheric percussion. The result is hauntingly solemn. On the latter Mondlak thrills with his overlapping, agile beats and breathtaking acrobatics that are elegantly reserved and never showy.
Similarly Zen like ambience permeates the angular "Sticks and Flurries." Pianist Rainer Böhm bounces his shimmering arpeggios off of Mondlak's intricate, crystalline rhythmic patterns. Strassmayer, switching to flute, forges a serpentine pattern within these intriguing, labyrinthine refrains. The quartet flirts delightfully with dissonance.
Bassist Thomas Stabenow starts off the lyrical "Aahhh!" with a folkish, melancholic solo. The ensemble exchanges are poetic and ethereal, endowing the group play with an incisive and primal asceticism. Strassmayer burns through the hypnotic vamps with intelligence and passion while Böhm mirrors her ardor with an inventive and eloquent improvisation.
In contrast, the soulful "Courage" incorporates bluesy fragments in both the collective performance as well as the individual extemporizations. Strassmayer's undulating, warm phrases coalesce into a fiery soliloquy while Böhm's cascading keys embellish the core melody with suave swagger. Mondlak's rolling drums and rustling cymbals and Stabenow's reverberating lines keep this expressive piece simmering with anticipation
Freescapes is a captivating recording of sophisticated spontaneity. Its theme is simultaneously personal and universal and the music is both innovative and accessible. It is easily Mondlak and Strassmayer's best effort to date.
Sing To Me Of...; Mallets And Air; Sticks And Flurries; Brushes Dancing; Courage; Hands And Feet Talking;
Both Held And Free; Octopus Dance.
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