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Ned Rothenberg / Catherine Jauniaux / Barre Phillips: While You Were Out

Nic Jones By

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One of the most consistently intriguing things about freely improvised music is the degree to which it can transcend the moment. While on the surface of it that moment might be something the free improviser has only to reach an accommodation with, on a deeper level such practitioners are arguably more subject to its vagaries than musicians who work in more deliberate and preconceived areas.

This is an indirect way of getting around to the fact that While You Were Out is one of the most rewarding sessions of free improvisation to be released in a long while. All three participants obviously came to the table with something to say, but it's the way they go about realizing their collective endeavors that clinches it. The trio is stimulated, stimulating and so sharp in its responses that the music never flags. In the course of its dialogue on "Eyelet," for example, vocalist Catherine Jauniaux and clarinetist Ned Rothenberg map out territory they're both comfortable in, though not to the extent that said comfort belittles the music. Jauniaux is clearly a member of that very select band of female vocalists equal to the demands of such a relatively exposed setting—not merely singing, but using the full range of vocal effects at her disposal to lift the music up and away from the ordinary. Rothenberg is an accommodationist, but not to the point where his musical personality is lost.

"Flashing Terncat" similarly documents evidence of Barre Phillips in thrall to his bass, intimately aware of the range of sounds he has at his disposal. His dialogue with Jauniaux is, if anything, more fraught than the one she has with Rothenberg, but such is the nature of the music that the comparison serves only a limited purpose. The internal momentum of the music—discontinuous as it is, as if the musicians are in polite disagreement over how the passing of the moment should be sounded—makes for tension in and of itself.

"Oh My!" is as close as anything gets to the notion of energy music. Any trope that might imply is, however, only an allusive reference, especially when the trio comes together so cogently. Rothenberg proves himself to have a highly individual voice on bass clarinet, while chattering away at the edges of the music; Jauniaux gets kind of strident without setting herself up in any form of opposition.


Track Listing: First Things First; Oh My!; Flashing Terncat; As Soon As; Whisper; Eyelet; While You Were Out; La Vida Es Sueño.

Personnel: Ned Rothenberg: clarinet, bass clarinet, shakuhachi, alto saxophone; Catherine Jauniaux: voice; Barre Phillips: bass.

Title: While You Were Out | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Kadima Collective

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