Blind Date Quartet: Blind Date Quartet [GPE Records]
The Blind Date Quartet—named for the fact that their first gig together was something of a blind date, in that it was the first time they’d played together as a quartet—is a free improv ensemble notable for an approach that demonstrates the wide range of possibilities open to instruments most often associated with the orchestral or chamber music traditions.
The group, consisting of Angelika Sheridan on flutes, violinist Ulrike Stortz, cellist Scott Roller, and John Hollenbeck on percussion, makes full use of their instruments’ broad spectrum of colors. This chromatic richness is particularly apparent in the timbral contrast of violin and flute. Though both instruments cover the same general pitch range, the difference in timbres makes for a sound relationship at once oppositional and reciprocal. Although not often found in the company of these chamber music instruments, Hollenbeck’s complement of drumkit and other percussion adds an essential element often manifesting as an edge or toughness balancing out the more naturally lyrical sounds of the flute and violin. Added to the mix is a cello that frequently contributes the piquant seasoning of fragmented tone sequences and extended techniques.
The recording opens with the aptly titled Speed Date, which serves as a brief, spiky prelude to what follows. Tarentology’s opening melody features Angelika Sheridan’s flute, which settles in over a drone rich in overtones from Scott Roller’s cello and a galloping underlying rhythm from percussionist John Hollenbeck. Hollenbeck’s playing in fact often serves as the backbone to the pieces, as for example in Update or in Harvesting, where snare and brushes work to create a propulsive feeling. This is enhanced by Ulrike Stortz’s pizzicato violin and Roller’s cello, which alternates between pizzicato and arco figures; gradually, the piece evolves into a conversation between flute and cello. Percussion again sets the tone for Dry Bone Mobile, a clacking, skittering piece full of staccato strings and struck things that sounds exactly like the object named in the title. Truth or Dare, by contrast, opens with well-spaced stabs of strings and flute and develops into a kind of improvised serialism notable for changes in tempo and mood afforded by the musicians’ deeply attentive interplay. The textural pointillism of Sequel brings this satisfying set to a close.