Interstellar Space, John Coltrane’s fiery, harmonically dense set of duets with Rashied Ali, has been something of a paradigm for improvisations for saxophone and drums. This set by percussionist Ben Bennett and alto and soprano saxophonist Jack Wright represents a different kind of paradigm, one that posits color and texture as primary elements. The conventional relationship between pitch and timbre is reversed here in that in Bennett and Wright’s hands, the former becomes a carrier for the latter—when indeed it surfaces at all. For all its potentially broad applicability, Bennett and Wright’s embodiment of reed and percussion interaction nevertheless manages to remain sui generis.
Over the course of his career, Wright has embraced an especially kinetic variety of free jazz—such as would be licensed by Interstellar Space—only to turn around to explore a more austere, sonically constrained type of improvisation. At this stage he seems inclined to gather in and refine elements drawn from the entirety of his personal history, in the process producing a creative synthesis that, while rooted in each tendency he explored, is in the end neither one nor the other. Instead it consists in a unique sound and sense of continuity instantly identifiable as his own.
Throughout the three lengthy pieces Wright sets out timbres or techniques as motifs to delineate and vary, beginning with a long, slow tone that splits into overtones and then dissolves into energetic, bop-like phrases employing a limited set of pitches. From there, Wright draws on the wide-ranging vocabulary he’s developed over the years. He constructs long lines out of air notes or uses register jumps to create the illusion of a jagged melody counterpointed by an independent bassline. More introspective passages find him building phrases out of open spaces as well as sounds, which effectively contrast with frenetic moments sounding like rapid bits of broken birdsong.
Bennett’s sensibility perfectly complements Wright’s. Bennett’s starting point is a severely pared down drumkit—actually a single drum and no cymbals—out of which he creates a variegated texture of timbres using friction as well as percussive strikes. Bennett’s playing eschews rhythm or pulse in favor of pure color. He often mutes the drum to get a closed sound, scrapes brushes against any available surface, bounces objects off the drumhead, and plays on the metal as much as on the membrane. This allows him to play with dynamic as well as timbral contrasts, something that Wright does as well.
It isn’t surprising to find out that Bennett and Wright have been collaborating in different contexts for nearly ten years now. As this recording shows, during that time they’ve forged a uniquely sympathetic relationship in sound.
Music doesn’t happen for free. Musicians and their supporters dedicate countless hours of their time, as well as their own money, to record and perform the music you enjoy. In the holiday season, we all have many charitable organizations asking for help. Many of the organizations featured on Avant Music News operate on a shoestring budget or lose money. If you are fortunate to have more than you need this year, please consider donating – even a small amount – to one or more of the following:
Arts For Art (the people behind New York’s Vision Festival)
New York’s Issue Project Room
Anthony Braxton’s Tricentric Foundation
The Deep Listening Institute
Philadelphia’s Ars Nova Workshop
These are just a few worthwhile organizations, and many more exist. Outside of the music space, some of my favorites are Wikipedia and the Khan Academy, which are democratizing education for the world, and in turn, making the world a better place.
From All About Jazz:
Per Zanussi 5 Track Review
Live in Coimbra (Clean Feed Records)
Matière des Souffles (Improvised Beings)
Fanon (Rogue Art)
Out Loud (Triple Point Records)
Wooley – Rempis – Niggenkemper – Corsano
From Wolves To Whales (Aerophonic Records)
Stefano Leonardi / Stefano Pastor / Fridolin Blumer / Heinz Geisser
Conversations about Thomas Chapin (Leo Records)
KonstruKt And Joe McPhee
Babylon: The First Meeting of Istanbul (Roaratorio Records)
Tokafi magazine has released a multimedia retrospective of the work of 12k artist Kenneth Kirschner. Imperfect Forms: The Music of Kenneth Kirschner includes an ebook containing 200 pages of essays, interviews and analysis of Kirschner’s music; a three-volume anthology of selected works from the last 15 years; and over 5 hours of audio and video remixes and reinterpretations by two dozen artists, all available for free download. The project includes contributions from artists such as Sawako, Steinbrüchel, Dmitry Gelfand & Evelina Domnitch, Yukitomo Hamasaki, Tomas Phillips, Dirk Serries, and Stephen Vitiello, among many others.
On the lighter side, Vinnie Sperrazza recounts five awkward conversations with Paul Motian
New Vocabulary is a collaboration by Ornette Coleman – Alto Saxophone, Jordan McLean – Trumpet & Electronics, Amir Ziv – Drums, and Adam Holzman – Piano.