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Phil Grenadier / Bruno Raberg Duo: Plunge

Chris Mosey By

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The inspiration for this album was saxophonist Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." It gave Swedish bassist, Bruno Raberg, what he calls an "aural vision": "I 'heard' a rich, erratic, and busy soundscape in which the beautiful melody would live. I saw images of desolate streets and a lonely person's inner turmoil, conflicting emotions and despair."

Coleman's hauntingly melancholic composition was first heard on his The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic, 1959), when free jazz was in its infancy (and album titles overblown). The spontaneous, often bluesy beauty imparted to the original by Coleman's saxophone and Don Cherry's pocket trumpet is largely lost in its interpretation here by Råberg and American trumpeter Phil Grenadier (brother of bassist Larry Grenadier). The song becomes a stiff, academic musical exercise, shorn of feeling.

Coleman was one of the fathers of free jazz. The music on Plunge is in the same spirit, but far too self-conscious to be free. True, it is all based on duo improvisations by Råberg and Grenadier—what the bassist calls "real time compositions." However, these have later been adorned—not always the right word—with special effects, or what Råberg, a professor at Boston's Berklee College of Music, prefers to call "sound manipulations."

The duo obviously enjoyed the session and, away from the sci-fi blips and squawks of the manipulations, there are moments of intimacy when the music lives up to the following euphoric definition by Grenadier: "It is our voices joined in an honest search for beauty, complexity and depth." Unfortunately, such moments do not last long.

With some exceptions, the numbers are snippets, rather than full-blown songs. "Reveille," the opener, is an amusingly discordant wakeup call; "Last Train To Seville," which follows, a lugubrious Spanish- tinged evocation of a train ride (maybe); while "Heartwood" is a hesitant and quirky meditation on... something or other. Some of the "Intersections" too are interesting, notably "Moving Cycles," with its reflective theme.

Apart from "Lonely Woman," the only other written piece is Råberg's own "The Outermost Island," based on an interesting chord progression.

There is a genuine spirit of inquiry at work here but the net result is a bit of a letdown.

Track Listing: Reveille; Last Train to Seville; Five Short Pieces: Seiryuu- Azure Dragon, Byakko - White Tiger, Suzaku - Vermillion Bird, Genbu - Black Tortoise, Ouryu - Yellow Dragon; Lonely Woman; Heartwood; Ushas/Quadratic; Intersections I - IV: Part 1 - Moving Cycles, Part 2 - Line and Sphere, Part 3 - Sand Clock, Part 4 - Isomorphic; Area 51; The Outermost Island; Triangulum; Lizrael; Intersections V: Part 5 - Being and Time.

Personnel: Phil Grenadier: trumpet; Bruno Råberg: acoustic bass, sound design.

Title: Plunge | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Orbis Music


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