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When Bad Luck comes in the shape of drummer Christopher Icasiano and saxophonist Neil Welch, it can be a pretty good thing. They met at the University of Washington and, driven by an interest in improvised music, began a musical partnership. Both are fearless navigators of the unknown and communicate with an intuitive sense of empathy. Their music takes them across a wide panorama, over which they forge acoustic unions or use electronics to expand the dimension,all aspects given free rein on the two-disc Two. Either way they have something interesting to say.
The first disc, Bats, has seven improvised tracks that run for just over 43 minutes, culled from a six-hour recording session. Welch sticks to his saxophones, often unleashing a fiery fusillade of spirals. He holds nothing back when imposing a welter of sounds in ramped-up intensity, or in a seemingly forlorn cry. His freewheeling excursions are well met by Icasiano, who is no slouch as he churns out a whirling bed of rhythm. To give unfettered rein without vision would be pushing the boundaries out of focus. Welch balances his thrusts with the heavy barrages countermanded by a more calculated advance that serves to give the music a greater presence and power. This works particularly well on "Flare" and "Salt," the latter actually carrying a discernible melody.
Josephine, the second CD, opens the door to more instruments, a greater reference to melody, and quite a contrast in mood. The glockenspiel casts a crystal sound on "Hourglass" before it is met in soft interweaving by the bass clarinet. Welch articulates "Friend & Foe" with feeling, as he lingers on the beautiful melody, adding occasional grain as he breaks the line before folding it in a soft blanket. Icasiano makes it all the more germane, playing the beat against the grain in this top-notch offering. The rest of the music stirs different embers, from the quicksilver lines of "Two" to the initial expansive silence of "Singing Bowl" that finds the reason for its existence in the gradual dawning of sound.
Bad Luck frees up a lot of ideas and spins them into appealing tales.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.