Free improvisation is one of the most mutable modes of musical expression around. Under its auspices anything is possible. But hand in hand with freedom is a frequent malleability of group membership- rare are the freely improvising ensembles that stay together for the long haul. The music demands and depends on constant reinvention and reevaluation, two requirements that discourage continuous and familiar associations. Taking matters to a logical extreme guitarist Derek Bailey, a consummate free improviser, even goes so far as to argue that true free improvisation can only be accomplished among players who meet for the first and last time.
While the four musicians on this disc don’t subscribe completely to Bailey’s tenet their shared sound captures much of the spontaneity he is alluding to in his argument. Their interplay melds the freshness of nascent collaboration with a clear understanding of what paths they wish to tread collectively. The fact that this quartet is no longer a unit, Marsh having picked up stakes for the greener pastures of California and Rainey having returned to Boston residence, makes this recording all the more valuable.
Each of the players is a highly proficient pointillist working with pigments of sound shapes and textures rather than the familiar hues of melody, harmony and rhythm. Their shared mastery of timbre and pitch creates a blending of similar sonorities that at times makes it difficult to distinguish which sounds are created by strings and which are the product of reeds. Microtonal As the composition titles may indicate there exists a cerebral edge to their music that demands as much from their listeners’ attention spans as it does from their own feverish intellects. Track demarcations seem of little significance and serve more as brief breathing points rather than firmly etched termination boundaries. Throughout Wright and Rainey unveil a continuous barrage of extended reed manipulations ranging from slap-tongued sputters and flitters to cyclopedic microtonal harmonics and the string symmetries of Marsh and Lonberg-Holm inveigled with bows and fingers are equally oblique. If there’s a downside to this music it’s rooted in the unrelenting abstractionist tendencies that dominate the proceedings from beginning to close, though there are certainly many listeners who would consider this one of the music’s chief advantages. Those willing to cast off the lifesaver of linear expectations and tread water freely in the sea of what Rainey himself calls “decidedly unhip” sounds will not be disappointed.
Tracks:Opening/ So Very Doubled and Very Much Combined/ Trasfixed/ A Tongue Does the Undoing/ Something Else/ Brennschluss/ The Darkest Corner, the Most Conspicuous/ No New Nest in Which to Settle/ Srung into the Apollonian Dream/ On False Guidance Through Things Past/ Finish.
Players:Jack Wright- alto, soprano & tenor saxophones; Bhob Rainey- soprano saxophone; Bob Marsh- cello; Fred Lonberg-Holm- cello.
Recorded: August 8 & 9, 1999, Rossie, NY.
CIMP recordings are available directly through North Country Distributors: http://www.cadencebuilding.com