AMN Reviews: Bear, Bertucci Duo – Controlled Burn

Bear, Bertucci Duo: Controlled Burn [Peira pm12]

The conjunction of two low-pitched wind instruments is almost guaranteed to produce a saturnine sound world. This is predominantly the case with Controlled Burn, a recording of eight structured improvisations by the duo of baritone saxophonist Ed Bear and bass clarinetist Lea Bertucci, who are here supplement by vibes and radio-derived sounds.

Bear and Bertucci have worked together for several years in order to create a sound informed by an awareness of the space in which it is situated. And in fact many of the tracks layer sound in a way that seems to provide an analogue to the filling out of space with three dimensional material—in effect, Bear and Bertucci are portraying blocks of space as strata of sound.

The recording opens with Somniferum, a piece placing slow trills over a foundation of long-duration tones. As implied by the title, the track has the feel of a kind of narcotized suspension in time, the rising and falling dynamics providing its dramatic arc. Tooth, the longest improvisation here, builds tiers of slowly overlapping harmonies and overtones that seem the aural equivalent of color field painting. This contrasts with the very brief Fanfare that follows it—a melody incorporating a repeated rhythmic figure over a lower harmonic stratum. Things Have to Change is a subdued, hymn-like track that moves through slowly resolving cadences and a subtle rhythm in three. The recording closes with Please, a slow baritone saxophone melody based on pairs of notes over white noise, which gradually comes up against sustained tones on the bass clarinet for contact at shifting points of dissonance and consonance.