AMN Reviews: Jennifer Curtis & Tyshawn Sorey – Invisible Ritual [New Focus Recordings]

Invisible Ritual, a set of freely improvised duets for composer/violinist Jennifer Curtis and composer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, represents a creative meeting of fiddle music and the improvisational avant-garde. Although Curtis and Sorey derive from different traditions, they easily converge on the substantial territory where those traditions overlap.

As these eight tracks demonstrate, one of the basic features fiddling and the jazz avant-garde share is a propulsive energy. Curtis’ brisk bow work pushes her into the tension-filled, expressionistic realm of rhythm in rapid forward motion, where Sorey meets her in a splash of colorful cymbal work. Curtis artfully deploys repeated motifs, regular phrasing and open-string harmonic anchors to provide a structural foundation for her work, which Sorey complements with an underpinning of free yet solid pulse. On the third, fifth and sixth tracks Sorey switches to piano, which he takes through a diverse set of moods and styles: sparsely ponderous dissonances on III, frenetic, staccato runs up and down the keyboard on V, and a lushly romantic sound on VI. The final track, a contemplative improvisation in which cymbals, bells and/or gongs meld with pizzicato strings for a muted, gamelan-like effect, highlights Curtis and Sorey’s ability to create a vivid atmosphere with timbre.

Daniel Barbiero

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