Relative Pitch is a label based in New York that releases a handful of recordings each year, mostly focusing on free improvisation and avant-jazz. Recently, it put out three compelling albums.
Two Much: Reut Regev and Igal Foni – Never Enough (2021)
Trombonist Regev and percussionist Foni recorded these 20 vignettes right as the pandemic was breaking out last year. Their efforts represent an absorbing mixture of improvisation and pre-defined structures. Thus, while some pieces are free-form, others feature distinct rhythms and melodies often bordering on the playful. On some tracks, Regev blends staccato playing with explorations of short themes and motifs, suggesting a certain amount of forethought serves as the based for her spontaneity. Foni does a commendable job of sticking to these patterns without falling into a routine. Other tracks, however, feature more opened-ended playing from both using extended techniques to probe the outer reaches of their instruments’ sounds.
Zeena Parkins, Mette Rasmussen, and Ryan Sawyer – Glass Triangle (2021)
Zeena Parkins playing her electric harp is not just an audio delight but a visual one as well. Do not turn down the chance to see her live. But with performances still on hold, the next best thing is a recording like this one. Teaming up with saxophonist Rasmussen and drummer Sawyer, this unusual trio blazes new sonic pathways. Freely improvised, Glass Triangle consists of six moderate-length tracks that explore textures and color as much as – if not more than – melody and rhythm. Rasmussen wails in a punctuated fashion in contrast to Parkins’ spacey echoing and distorted notes. Sawyer plays the busy percussionist role, mostly on kit drums but also incorporating a few other objects as well. This is an aggressive and forward offering that is conducive to repeat listens.
Signe Emmeluth – Hi Hello I’m Signe (2021)
Hi Hello I’m Signe is the first solo sax effort from Emmeluth, who is active in the European free jazz scene. It consists of a single 35-minute track, Action Painting en Vogue. Emmeluth employs atypical blowing and fingering techniques to generate squeaks, bent notes, and subtle melodies. But her playing is not predictable in general, as she moves between passages of the recording. This involves a certain degree of dynamics, as she can be soft to the point of becoming barely audible as well as more assertive and attention-demanding. The contrast can be both jarring and exhilarating. At some points it almost seems as if she is in a dialog with herself, playing call-and-response patterns in two different registers. Importantly, Emmeluth is finding her voice in the crowded solo-sax space, and a compelling voice it is. Well done.