AMN Reviews: Robert Dick & Dan Blake – Laugh and Lie Down [Bandcamp]

Artists like Steve Lacy, Gianni Mimmo, and Harri Sjostrom have demonstrated that the soprano saxophone can work in combination with seemingly odd duet partners and in the process, make compelling and surprisingly complete music. Just last year, for example, Mimmo released a series of duets with violinist Alison Blunt; he and Sjostrom have even recorded a set of duets for two soprano saxophones. There is good precedent, then, for a recording like Laugh and Lie Down, a set of three duets for flute and soprano saxophone.

The three duets are free improvisations recorded in a concert given by flutist Robert Dick and soprano saxophonist Dan Blake in late 2019. As would be expected in a pairing of two monophonic instruments, much of the music is contrapuntal, with Dick and Blake weaving complex, chromatic lines around each other. Occasionally one or the other will set out a repeated figure hinting at a chord progression or a drone for the other to play over, or both will play in opposing or complementary rhythmic patterns; foreground and background are defined in an invitingly ambiguous manner throughout. There is also a good amount of timbral counterpoint, as one might expect from two instruments sharing a range but having very different sound profiles; both Dick and Blake leverage extended techniques to push timbral contrast to a point of creative crisis. The interplay is nimble, ethereal, and impulsive; even on the twenty-seven-minute-long title track the two never let the forward momentum stall.

Daniel Barbiero