An original name, if not quite such an original concept. Saxophone and drum duets used to be as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth, with John Coltrane
and Rashied Ali
's 1960s collaboration always the benchmark. In recent years, however, this striking duo combination has seen something of a boom. Charles Lloyd
and Billy Higgins
; Dave Rempis
and Frank Rosaly
; Tatsuya Nakatani
and Michel Doneda
; Eliel Sherman Storey and Famoudou Don Moye
; Joe McPhee
and Chris Corsano
; Neil Welch
and Christopher Icasiano
; Don Dietrich
and Bengt Hallberg
all have left their particular mark on the format
Joining the club is Insufficient Funs, aka Sam Comerford
and Matthew Jacobson
, two of the preeminent figures in Dublin's jazz/improvised music scene. Insufficient Funs scored a notable success on the stage of 12 Points 2016, in San Sebastian and its eponymous EP further showcases the musician's first rate chops and the evident empathy at play.
Unusually, perhaps, Comerford's weapon of choice is the bass saxophone, an unwieldy instrument surely on the endangered species list. The range of the instrument is perhaps surprising, with Comerford moving from bowels-of-the-earth, basso profundo growls to lyricism more typical of a tenor saxophone. A little of both of these extremes color "Evilolive," whose memorably stonking riff bookends more subtle duo dialogue, complete with quirky percussive punctuations. Jacobson's rolling figures introduce "Sam's Haircut," where a flurry of brief exchanges develops into an expansive tête-à-tête where Comerford's melodic course is spurred by Jacobson's lightly dancing yet intricate grooves.
At times, so tightly bound are the musician's respective motivic patterns that it's difficult to discern who leads whosuch is the case on "Eirik's Suite," which builds from Comerford's brooding, zombie reveille, via pattering brushes, towards free-improvisational terrain; Jacobson on sticks stirs up a storm, his animation contrasting with Comerford's sparer vocabulary, until the duo unites in an accelerated finale.
Honking riffs alternate with melodic motifs on the title track, the quieter passages in a tune of undulating intensity inviting greater rhythmic experimentation from Jacobson. The epitome of the contemporary jazz drummer, Jacobson's stylistic roots undoubtedly run deep, yet his openness to rhythmic possibilities infuses his playing with a compellingly urbane, playful edge. Upping the ante once more, the duo burns in a visceral passage where passion and control go hand in hand.
A ruminative, almost mournful quality characterises "Undone," a slowly serpentine, dark power ballad of strangely hypnotic allure. Just when it seems as if it might take off for unscripted territory the duo pulls in the reins, leaving the nagging sensation of tensions unresolved.
Insufficient Funs' groove-based debut, whilst satisfying, may fall short of reimagining the saxophone-drum duo as a concept, but there is enough meat on the bones musically speaking to suggest that they can take this project on to even greater heights. Sufficient funds permitting.
Evilolive; Sam’s Haircut; Eirik's Suite; Insufficient Funs; Undone.
Sam Comerford: bass saxophone; Matthew Jacobson: drums.