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Phil Grenadier / Bruno Raberg Duo: Plunge

Ian Patterson By

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Maybe only a pirate radio station would be uninhibited enough to play duo improvisations such as these served up by trumpeter {Phil Grenadier and acoustic bassist Bruno Raberg. However, such mainstream disinterest should be considered a backhanded compliment and is perhaps reason enough to check it out. Plunge is an apt title for music inspired by the panoply of emotions suggested to Råberg by saxophonist Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." This intimate dialogue explores extensive emotional terrain, with Råberg's sound design adding textures that bring a greater contemporary edge to the music.

"Reveille" consists only of layered trumpet. This short intro serves as a raising of the improvisational flag, and segues into "Last Train to Seville," where Råberg's chugging rhythm and Grenadier's psychedelic-hued trumpet with Iberian overtones weave a dream-like ambiance. The "Five Short Pieces" mini-suite eschews effects and covers diverse terrain, from the lyrical "Seiryu—Azure Dragon" to the shattered-nerves vibe of "Suzaku—Vermillion Bird" and from the plaintive "Genbu—Black Tortoise" to the bleakness of "Ouryu—Yellow Dragon." These vignettes provide some of the most organic interplay of the CD, and Råberg's arco runs though the pieces like a unifying thread.

An moody abstraction underlies the familiar melody of Coleman's bleak blues, "Lonely Woman"; layered trumpet harmonies create a sense of depth, while a distant muted trumpet and rumbling arco seem to stretch back in time, like flitting memories. "Heartwood" is a restless number, with bass-body percussion sounding like scurrying rats, while Grenadier's fractured phrasing adds to the overriding feeling of unease. Shades of trumpeter Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero's dark concoctions color "Ushas/Quadratic," though the post-punk energy in the bass lines at the beginning place a distinctive mark on the composition.

The mini-suite "Intersections I-V" follows a similar pattern to "Five Short Pieces" in its contrasting textures and restrained interplay. There is, however, greater substance to the four interlocking compositions. The standout piece, "Sand Clock," seems to flirt a little with the melody from Herman Hupfeld's "As Time Goes By," with Råberg's grooving bass ostinato pulsing while Grenadier unfolds a subtly evolving, emotionally charged solo. On "Part 4—Isomorphic" the duo chatters like neighbors yarning over the fence—a mirror image of one another.

"Area 51" and "Triangulum" are recorded improvisations over which Grenadier and Råberg play new lines. The first is similar to "Lonely Woman," minus the strong melodic heart, while the second has a cinematic feel, as trumpet floats ethereally in time and space. There's a greater center of gravity to "The Outermost Island," though less risk involved in the somewhat ponderous interplay. "Lirazel" plots a similar path, though both musicians stretch out a shade more. "Intersections V—Being and Time" sees muted trumpet embark in quietly meditative mode in contrast to Råberg's greater momentum, though the two gradually gravitate towards each other in both tempo and mood.

Abstract and lyrical—sometimes simultaneously—a wide range of emotions are exposed in these mostly absorbing duo exchanges. Throughout Plunge, Grenadier and Råberg demonstrate that free improvisation-with a few post-production tweaks—can engage without resorting to ecstasy-driven soloing.

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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