As one of Lithuania's premier improvisers, reedman Liudas Mockūnas
has partnered an enormous array of visiting luminaries over the years. The duet is a favored format which has seen the multi-instrumentalist in tandem with bassist Barry Guy
, drummer William Hooker
and guitarist Marc Ducret
, just to name those documented on NoBusiness Records.
Here the accomplished Catalan pianist Agusti Fernandez
acts as the foil. The limited edition LP (also available as a download) comprises two three-part encounters recorded just over a year apart, during the titular concert series. It is a pairing of well-matched entities, in terms of inspiration, range of techniques and stylistic command.
With Mockūnas on soprano saxophone and Fernández at the extreme treble end of the keyboard, the opening "Improdimension I Part I" gets off to an explosive start. In the ensuing spurts of activity, the two principals listen and respond, matching dynamics and phrase length. At one point the pianist picks out a series of descending notes on the strings, fleetingly echoed by Mockūnas, as part of his ongoing flow. Moments like this reassure the listener that the connections which might not always be apparent in the glinting runs and corkscrewing reeds are in fact still there.
"Part II" illustrates another of the duo's strengths, their mastery of unusual timbres. Fernández answers Mockūnas' juddering harmonics, shrill whistles and urgent bleating with a single dampened Morse-coded note, then repeats the exact same cadence on the wires. Tumultuous clusters greet the reedman's honking climax. But then, providing one of the striking juxtapositions which litter the set, Mockūnas extemporizes a folky ditty, unspooling in super fluent spirals as Fernández rattles and crashes.
Other highlights include the dizzying parallel streams on "Part III" which touch on almost jazzy syncopation, the mystery evoked on "Improdimension II Part I" by Fernández' spare key strokes, and the subsequent manipulation of strings and pedals to make notes bend and reverberate, and his tour de force on the unaccompanied "Part II," all captured in excellent sound. "Part III" completes the sequence, not with a ballad or some other rapprochement, but with a full-on assault of noise, enlivened by Mockūnas' achievement of two simultaneous lines from his contrabass clarinet as Fernández taps and bangs.
Both sessions represent top drawer improvisation, sonically stimulating and viscerally enthralling.
Improdimension I Parts I-III; Improdimension II Parts I-III.