Raised in Sweden and Denmark, alto saxophonist Mia Dyberg has made a name for herself on Berlin's improvised music scene, notably in the duos Sonic Horizons, with cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, and with Italian turntable musician Roberta Wjm Andreucci in Morph! Ticket!
is Dyberg's second trio outing to take inspiration from beat poet William S. Burroughs, following the live recording Pulse
(Clean Feed Records, 2016). Dyberg improvised to tapes of Burroughs' reading his poetry, transcribed her solos and then used these as the basis for these thirteen pieces. Hence, improvisation and composition are two sides of the same coin, and both, at times, are difficult to separate.
Dyberg's free-improvisation credentials are clear but she moves closer to free-jazz on highly charged numbers like "Ticket!"driven by Asger Thomsen's tireless bass ostinatoand on the febrile "The First Track," whose twelve minutes serve up an episodic progression of restless fidgeting, repeated melodic refrain, Dag Magnus Narvesen
's bustling rhythms and feisty solos from bass and saxophone. Apart from fast-walking bass here and on the free-spirited "Wil's Swing," swing and blues are low priorities throughout the album, with short bouts of close-knit trio choreography soon dissolving into much freer collective expression. Dyberg generally sustains a succession of long notes that waver and fray, eventually falling into coarse braying.
There's a little honking, squawking and squealing alto smattered here and there, notably on the quirky "Chinese Laundry" and the idiosyncratic percussive vignette that is "Mia's Pulse," but it's the braying in the main that Dyberg is drawn to most as she invites and, perhaps paradoxically, gently explores the decay of long notes. In fact, even in the furnace of Thomsen and Narvesen's most animated free playing Dyberg often plies a more meditative course, only occasionally letting rip with rugged glissandi. Indeed, there's an almost hymnal lyricism in her soft voicing on "Part 1 Vorbei," one of several atmospheric mood pieces.
Of these shorter, sometimes fairly abstract mood pieces, "Silversmoke" is arguably the most interesting, if only because its length allows for extended individual exploration and expression. By contrast, several vignettes, ranging from the thirty-second "Snap"where Thomsen cajoles wickedly creaking, twisting sonorities from his bass like a tree under unbearable pressureand the forty second, subtly-scarred silence of "Stilhed," to the rumbling thunder of the sub-two-minute "Snapback," are sonic curios indeed. The trio signs out with "How Do you Know When you Are Through?," a cacophonous, Sun Ra
-esque orchestral arrangement of multiple layered saxophones and rattling rhythms that ends without warning.
Whether abstract or more concretely framed, there's an openness in Dyberg's compositions that invites freedom of expression. Freedom for Dyberg means, above all, freedom from convention, and thus real freedom to explore. At its most intense the music is stirring and occasionally thrilling, while the more impressionistic passages are, for the most part, arresting. Your ticket for a wildly unpredictable ride.