With six and one-half minutes remaining in this single thirty-eight minute live tenor saxophone/drums recording, an audience member at a club in Berlin begins howling. Listeners to this recording will probably be saying to themselves, "where have you been? I've been shouting encouragement since I pressed play!" It's that kind of record.
The two Parisians, tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and drummer Antonin Gerbal work regularly in Zoor with guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage, and as a pair released Le Ring (Confront, 2016) with Axel Dorner. Sbatax finds the duo in sharp contrast with their very quiet, almost minimalist duo session Heretofore (Umlaut Records, 2015).
From the first snare drum strike, they take no prisoners à la John Coltrane and Rashied Ali, and for the entire album they go toe-to-toe as if this were a tag team wrestling match. Gerbal is in constant motion here, more Hamid Drake than Ali, and more Billy Higgins than Sunny Murray. His performance is the accelerant for Denzler's tenor exploits, who drops whole notes then pushes his horn to the brink, working the edges of overblown intensity. It is not until the halfway point that Denzler pauses for the drum solo. Which of course is not a solo at all, but a continuation of Gerbal's attack. As the pair drive on to the conclusion (and the shouting patrons) the musicians, and by now the listeners, must wring the water out of their sweat-soaked garments.