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Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House

Mark Sullivan By

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Electrifying collective improvisation from four progressive masters. The combination of electric guitar, touch guitar, electric bass and drums recalls the classic David Torn album Cloud About Mercury (ECM, 1987), as well as the various improvisational King Crimson spinoffs called ProjeKcts.

U.K. guitarist Mark Wingfield (Jane Chapman, solo artist, and one half of the long-running guitar duo, with acoustic maestro Kevin Kastning) typically takes the lead lines. German touch guitarist Markus Reuter (Stick Men, The Crimson ProjeKCt, Centrozoon) plays an instrument capable of both bass and guitar registers. With a bassist in the group, he generally stays out of the bass range, and often takes a soundscaping role, supplying dense sonic textures.

They are supported by a rhythm section made up of Israeli-born U.K. transplants: fretless bassist Yaron Stavi (David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Robert Wyatt, Richard Galliano) and drummer Asaf Sirkis (Tim Garland, Mark Wingfield, Nicolas Meier, The Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet), a rock-solid pair who have played together many times.

This album was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, and completely improvised, with no written music or rehearsal, but you wouldn't know it to listen to it. "Rush" opens the program with the sort of textural atmospherics expected in a session like this—but before long the rhythm section enters and the sound takes on more direction, including space at the end for one of the few bass solos in the set. On "Four Moons" we hear the piece being built up: first a drum beat, then a bass line, then Reuter's chordal accompaniment and Wingfield's keening lead. "Silver" is up-tempo all the way, the whole band charging ahead together as if by telepathy.

The aptly titled "Fjords de Catalunya" does stay atmospheric the whole time, but the following track "Tarasque" demonstrates how conversational the group can be. Closer "Bona Nit Señor Rovira" begins with pulsing bass, and ends with atmospherics. It's the reverse of the structure of the opener, and a fitting bookend for the collection. It is rare for any improvised project to have the success rate achieved here: if it's not 100%, it's very close. Great as these players are individually, their collective performance is almost magical.

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