For the past fifteen years, San Francisco's Luggage Store Gallery has hosted new music and avant-garde improvisational music on a weekly basis. Its long history is a testament to the dedication required to keep the improvisational listening experience alive.
This set of duos finds the familiar figure of Bob Marsh collaborating with two new (to this listener) voices in free music. Marsh, a longtime collaborator with saxophonist Jack Wright, moved to the Bay Area in 2000 as Wright was heading to the East Coast. His current projects include String Theory, the Che Guevarra Memorial Marching (and Stationary) Accordion Band, Robot Martians, Opera Viva, and Moe! Staiano's Moe!chestra, to name just a few.
The first track here is a lengthy cello duet with Theresa Wong, a musician, designer and performance artist. Like Marsh, she is also a Bay Area resident and collaborator with the familiar figures of Gino Robair and Phillip Greenlief. Both Marsh and Wong take advantage of the warmth and earnestness of their instruments, spilling the mostly gentle lines of sound in and around each other.
There's no one-upsmanship here, no bravado, just the tranquility of sound. Thoughts bounce gentlyeven, I'm certain of this, passages from Warner Brothers' cartoon musicand float around your brain. Wong's voice, then Marsh's, can be heard in wordless accompaniment. The music, surprisingly (!), or maybe indulgently, has a calming meditative quality.
Slightly shorter, by eight minutes, is Marsh's session with soprano saxophonist Bryan Eubanks. I don't know if these two compositions were recorded on the same night, but Marsh and Eubanks maintain the quiet meditative mood of the first track. Eubanks, a New Yorker, likes repetitive lines of thought, at times leading Marsh's cello into and out of resolution, other times responding to Marsh's prodding.
Both duets heard here should be applauded for the musicians' eagerness to really listen to their partner and react accordingly.