Tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci presents another bulletin from the front line of the Brooklyn underground on Live At The Bushwick Series! Literally so when considering the windowless basement room in the Bushwick Public House where this performance was recorded in November 2019. Alongside Gauci sits the regular drummer from his trio/quartet Kevin Shea, best known for his tenure with Mostly Other People Do the Killing, and keyboardist Eli Wallace, a 2015 transplant from Oakland, California, who has worked with Daniel Carter, Ches Smith, Trevor Dunn and many others and has an album Slideshow Junky I on Iluso (2018).
The group issue a three-pronged manifesto in which they enjoy a palpable connection in terms of phrase placement and responsiveness, with Gauci particularly attuned to Wallace's Korg keyboard. Wallace's sounds recall Sun Ra in his mid-1970s pomp, like a cross between Hammond organ, Rocksichord and Fender Rhodes, purposefully delivered so as to establish a clear trajectory and a solid grounding for Gauci's stratospheric falsetto excursions. Something of Wallace's insistent repetition rubs off on Gauci, and his stuttered wailing meshes well. Especially memorable are those times a pleasing frisson arises between Gauci's split tone reverberations and Wallace's distorted keyboard daubs.
Shea's clattery drumming imparts a surging undercurrent, most prevalent when tenor and keys step back into timbral exploration, and he takes centre stage with a winning mix of junk-filled rattle and precisely detailed tonal coloration. Of the two collective improvisations on the 32-minute digital download, the second, some 7-minutes in duration, starts with Gauci alternating boppish lyricism with upper register squeals and gruff honks, before giving way to a similar treble/bass contrast from Wallace. After 5 minutes, they pause their reflective shimmer, only to relaunch at tempo, with careening lines criss-crossing in high energy conflagration. The small audience is vocal in its affirmation.
This set represents one of the most satisfying encounters between Gauci and someone outside his familiar circle of collaborators, and suggests that Wallace as a name to ponder for the future.
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