AMN Reviews: Polyorchard – Ink [Out & Gone]

Ink is a generous, two-CD set of improvisations from trombonist Jeb Bishop and double bassist David Menestres, playing under the name of Polyorchard, Menestres’ ongoing group project with fluid membership. The music is all live, having been recorded during a 2019 tour that saw Bishop and Menestres in Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio.

Over the course of the album’s seven tracks and more than 90 minutes Bishop and Menestres tease out an ever-changing but cohesive set of sounds crafted from sophisticated musical vocabularies. Menestres draws equally on both conventional improvisational bass practices—setting out supporting ostinatoes and walking lines, playing rapid counterpoint, bowing fluid melodies—and on extended techniques and the use of preparations for creating music of timbral variety and salience. As he’s demonstrated on previous recordings, he’s fluent in both languages of performance and moves freely between them, to all appearances guided only by the musical relevance of any given technique at any given time. Bishop is a good match for Menestres; his sound is rooted in a sensibility aware of the full history of the trombone from its beginnings in blues and early jazz to its use in more reductive, contemporary contexts. He plays melodies informed by swing or march rhythms, alludes to the classic big band brass sections with his use of wah wah effects—and then pivots to the cutting edge contemporary sounds of air notes, microtones, drones, multiphonics and more.

A fine set of music from two exciting and thoughtful instrumentalists.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Heenan / Rodriguez / Frangenheim / Bymel – Berlin

Heenan Rodrigues Frangenheim Bymel: Berlin [cs238]


Recorded in April 2010 in Berlin, this set of six pieces for a mixed ensemble of strings, wind and percussion situates free improvisation firmly in a 21st century chamber setting. The ensemble, consisting of Chris Heenan (alto saxophone and contrabass clarinet), Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Alexander Frangenheim (double bass) and Ofer Bymel (percussion) is a finely calibrated unit improvising in the vocabulary of fragmentary modernism. Variably grouped pitches organized as discrete points of sound abound, along with leaps in register and dynamics, punctuated by silences. The quartet tends to the cerebral, yet at the same time it is deeply physical in its engagement of the beauty of raw sound in a distinctly musical context. Rodrigues’ viola playing stands out by virtue of his creative use of a varied set of techniques and phrasings: Rapid bursts of notes offset by spiccato bowing, drones and stabs. Likewise Frangenheim draws on an interaction with the bass that exploits the rich span of the instrument’s range. Bymel’s percussion work is never less than astute and judiciously placed, while Heenan’s versatility on both high and low register winds complements the group’s sound with an essential array of timbres.


AMN Reviews: HAG – Moist Areas

HAG: Moist Areas [eh?56]

HAG – the name is an acronym derived from the last names of trumpeter Brad Henkel, bassist Sean Ali and snare drummer David Grollman – are an ensemble specializing in the unorthodox use of orthodox instruments. The pieces collected here focus on the broad textural possibilities available to acoustic instruments, offered up in an often clamorous pile-on of sound. Occasionally one can identify Grollman’s cymbal scraping the head of his snare, or individual notes from Ali’s pizzicato bass, or Henkel’s breath passing along the length of his trumpet. Most often though the improvisations take the form of a dense collision of sounds pulled directly from wood, metal and plastic. A sonic adventure indeed.