AMN Reviews: Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim – Suite

Harold Rubin & Alexander Frangenheim: Suite [cs216]

Suite matches Israeli clarinetist Harold Rubin with German-born double bassist Alexander Frangenheim for a set of well-balanced improvisations that do indeed fit together like related parts within a suite.

Clarinet-double bass duets, with their mixture of high-register woodwind and low register strings, can be expected to rest on the instruments’ marked contrast of pitch and timbre. This is the case with Suite, but Frangenheim’s use of extended technique in the bass’s upper register often aligns the two instruments in a way that can make them undistinguishable in tone. Frangenheim favors a rough-hewn sound that sets up a creative tension with Rubin’s liquid lines; the bass often serves as a field against which the clarinet provides the foreground figure. Mark Smulian’s electric bass, featured on three tracks, supplements the backdrop and offers a subtle but unmistakable color contrast to the double bass. Throughout all of the pieces, the players strike the right balance between conventionally melodic, emotionally direct music and adventurous essays in textural exploration.

Highlights include the pointillistic Twin Leaf, which sets a fragmented clarinet melody within a plucked bass surrounding; the dialogue of bowed bass and plaintive clarinet, joined by thick harmonics on the electric bass, of White Skies; and the brief Tintoe, with its birdlike clarinet playing over Frangenheim’s rubbing, scraping, and jagged melodies. The deeply felt Slow Trio begins with quiet harmonics and high-pitched arco bass paired with tentative stabs on the clarinet; the track builds into a polyphonic braid of sound as long clarinet tones wrap themselves around countermelodies on double bass and electric bass. Wood Knocks First supplies just what it promises: An opening gambit of struck strings and fingerboard, moving into a wide-ranging and staccato pizzicato bassline, complemented by fittingly broken melodies on the clarinet.