AMN Reviews: Jessica Pavone / Wendy Eisenberg / Devin Gray – Universal Dwellings (2021; Rataplan Records)

This EP-length recording is the first meeting that I am aware of between violinist Pavone, guitarist Eisenberg, and drummer Gray. Each is a well-regarded experimentalist, and Universal Dwellings does not disappoint. The tracks come across as a set of outside jam sessions that were fortuitously recorded.

Pavone saws her instrument through discordant melodies in parallel to Eisenberg’s spiky chording, plucking, and bending. The latter often produces rhythmic effects through extended techniques or just playing her guitar in a disjointed fashion. I keep thinking “Derek Bailey” when I hear Eisenberg, though she has her own signature style. Gray is both a rhythmic and rattling percussionist, busy on the snare while his band members explore.

And those explorations are compelling. Pavone and Eisenberg share leads so seamlessly that it becomes difficult to determine who is following who. The best moments on Universal Dwellings come when all three members are simultaneously pushing the others onto new ground. They do so cooperatively rather than competitively, building and releasing tension together.

At the time of this writing, Gray has not yet put this album out, but with any luck, it will be available soon. In the mean time, let’s hope that this trio decides to record again. The instrumentation and approach to free improvisation exhibited herein leaves one wanting more.