Portuguese flautist Carol Bechegas demonstrates a sometimes overwhelming command of his instrument. Originally a saxophonist/flautist in swing orchestras and fusion groups, when he decided to devote himself to (a) the flute exclusively and (b) free improvisation, he translated some of the extended techniques of artists including Evan Parker, along with some new ones of his own, to the instrument. The result is an impressive array of sounds, textures and devices that allow him to coax more out of the instrument than one might think humanly possible.
Open Frontiers , the second release on his fledgling Forward.rec label, finds Bechegas teamed with French woodwind multi-instrumentalist Michel Edelin, and it’s an inspired pairing. Recorded in a single day and the result of their first meeting, the album manages to combines an earthy rawness with an intellectual approach that gives both players the license to explore a multitude of emotions and ambiences.
While the array of flutes used provides much breadth in colour, an entire album of flute duets could run the risk of sounding samey. Fortunately Bechegas and Edelin have chosen to work in miniature; the pieces run from one to five-and-a-half minutes, so they never let the individual explorations overstay their welcome. With some of Edelin’s more esoteric instruments sounding less like flutes and more like didgeridoos, amongst other things, the harmonic range is quite broad; add in the extended breathing technique and vocalizations and what you have is surprisingly rich diversity of timbre that keeps things interesting throughout.
While Open Frontiers is clearly not for everyone, listeners who appreciate the idea of combining free jazz a la Evan Parker with a more organic ethnic bent, will find much to like in this series of twenty duets. Bechegas and Edelin are clearly skilled in their respective instruments; and by expanding the sonic capabilities with unusual techniques and vocalizations, they create, for the most part, a lush sound that is strangely compelling.
Track Listing: Tales of Lhassa; Where is the exit?; Phoenix Babies; Tidada Circle; Parallel Way; Mad Pads; How to do it?; Bubbling Up; Undulating Meeting; Dark Fireworks; Open Frontiers; Blue of Breath; Trinkle Tinkle; Purple Nightmare; How do you spell it?; Wake up Melody; Would you like some more keffieh, Mr. Lawrence; Tetra; Spirits Voices; Classic Average
Personnel: Carlos Bechegas (piccolo, C, alto and bass flutes), Michel Edelin (piccolo, C, alto and bass flutes, foot-joint bass flute, bansari, bamboo guadlupean flute, Indian mouthpiece flute, piccosax, bird-call, siren)