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Paul Plimley / Barry Guy: Sensology

Robert Spencer By

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Paul Plimley is a remarkable pianist who can play with as much power as any free player can muster (yes, even as much as Cecil Taylor, whom he echoes here on occasion – although I don't think Plimley has played the tremendous marathons of energy that are Taylor's specialty), as well as with surpassing delicacy and grace (for example, on Joe McPhee's 1995 Sweet Freedom, Now What? with frequent partner on bass Lisle Ellis). Barry Guy, of course, is the consummate bassist, the linchpin of Parker / Guy / Lytton and the majordomo of the London Jazz Composer's Orchestra. Sensology, their collaboration of improvisations, is a marvelous recording.

The very first track, "This is not much less than flat," demonstrates the range of both players. Plimley lingers long in Taylorville, but returns to a series of light block chords; Guy plays his bass as if it is a drum, a flute-anything the occasion calls for. On "Short steps until it finally dawned," Plimley sets up some shimmering figures for Barry's bow. "Rolling agreement" is a feature for Guy's scrapings on a setting of gruff low tones from Plimley.

A few brief excursions set up the title track, which is the centerpiece and longest track on the disc. Skittering figures create a field of tactile energy; Guy demonstrates his razor-like mastery with the bow. Plimley is everywhere: nods to Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Stravinsky, whatsodam. This pair is thoroughly in sync with each other, and constantly creates inventive and ear-catching effects.

Other tracks deserve special mention: "What to do," featuring a convincingly quizzical Plimley; the aloof cool of "Jazz for now and never more," and the stinging "Joyous absence of disco." But this album is full of first-rate free improvisations by two masters, and is thus highly recommended.


Title: Sensology | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Maya


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