Nox presents a four-piece uniting two of Lithuania's finest improvisers, reedman Liudas Mockūnas and drummer Arkadijus Gotesmanas, with two world class instrumentalists, trumpeter Nate Wooley and bassist Barry Guy. Recorded at the 2019 Improdimensions Festival in Vilnius, the limited edition LP (also available as a download) contains three collectively sculpted tracks, demonstrating a unity of purpose which belies their off-the-wall genesis.
Gotesmanas' spare non-metric clatter and acute punctuation plays a defining role, enabling a transparent sound which allows appreciation of the full subtlety of Guy's astonishing bass work, even in the most boisterous passages. And Guy's contribution is worth hearing as he lavishes care and attention on each note, his playing bursts with micro detail: delicious slurs, crackling thwacks and filigree figures, whatever the pace. In these hands just bass and drums can take on an orchestral dimension in terms of range and placement of sound.
But that's not the end of it. Wooley, like Mockunas and Guy, seamlessly integrates extended and conventional technique, such that gusty phrases twist, squeal, and take on air, before landing neatly on a sweet spot. Similarly Mockunas demonstrates such complete control that he can call on whatever noise seems to best fit the circumstance or alternatively catalyze a new situation. The horns combine empathetically, evidenced by the way Wooley's circular-breathed drone blends with Mockunas sustained sopranino saxophone clarion in carefully modulated cohesion.
Together the foursome deliver a masterclass in improvised music making, traversing dynamic leaps from whispered to blaring, by way of abrupt sidesteps and unexpected gambits. They engineer a constant interchange, not only between the principals but also in the contrasting textures they extract from their instruments. While "Multa Dies" moves from overlapping chamber poise, via convulsive flurries, to siren intensity, "Multa Nox" waxes hushed and bucolic, Wooley's trumpet sighing, in a delicate lullaby, as Mockunas coaxes precise low volume multiphonics from his contrabass clarinet. All change once more for the eruptive "Multa Lux" as tenor saxophone responds to trumpet shouts over bustling accompaniment.
Given disparate locations and busy schedules a repeat performance may not be on the cards, but at least the summits ascended on this occasion were captured for posterity.