Collective improvisation can take several forms: abstract and textural; linear and polyphonic; dynamic and expressive. None these forms necessarily excludes any others, and much of the most engaging and satisfying collective improvisation will contain all of them, often in unexpected ways. This is true of Luminous, a particularly gratifying set of collective improvisations produced by three of improvised music’s most accomplished and well-rounded players.
The trio on Luminous was put together in 2015 by pianist Simon Nabatov, a Russian émigré who settled in Cologne by way of New York. The other two members are percussionist Gerry Hemingway, an American now resident in Switzerland, and British bassist Barry Guy. All three have extensive backgrounds in contemporary and, in Guy’s case, early, composed music as well as in a broad gamut of improvised musics, all of which tells in the music on this recording.
The twelve tracks range from the driving, percussive sounds of Slip Away, the galvanizing opening piece; through the brooding introspection of Forty Days; and to the timeless, long tones of the title track. Nabatov’s contributions can be forcefully fragmented and dissonant, gently melodic, or skittishly urgent. Hemingway here, as in all his work, shows himself to be a consummate colorist with a refined sense of space. On some of the pieces, he plays tuned percussion, which brings in a fascinating set of pitch and timbre contrasts and resemblances to Nabatov’s piano. Guy’s bass, played conventionally and with extended techniques, rounds out the collective sound with a muscular, often rough-hewn beauty.