The Bridge #0

The Bridge TBS06

Another indication of how sound a particular ongoing alliance among Gallic and Chicago-based improvisers is in practice is the newest link of the ocean-spanning The Bridge ensembles. This time the quartet members are mirror images of one another with alto saxophonists Fred Jackson Jr. (from the United States) and Stéphane Payen (from France), plus American percussionist Frank Rosalay and his French counterpart Edward Perraud.

Payen who plays in such groups as Morgan the Pirate and Print is matched with Jackson who is part of a World Music ensemble with drummer Makaya MacCraven, another Bridge participant. Perraud is part of bands as different as Hubbub and Supersonic, while Rosalay, who now lives in Amsterdam, was in groups led by Jason Stein and Dave Rempis.

Since exploratory music isn’t nationalistic, Twins’ four improvisations are neither particularly French nor American. Not only that, since the instruments themselves are twinned, ascribing particular concepts to one or another of the matched set is difficult if not impossible. Essentially the playing strategy is classic cutting contest face-of, but without rancor, as each pair tests one another. Rattles, crunches and emphasis on bass drum(s), cymbal (s) and snare(s) characterize the drummers’ effective patterning throughout, with, as on “Mirror”, the saxophonists’ spry and sinewy textures intermingle. Ultimately when one drummer emphasizes bass drum resonation and the other conga-like splats, the two reedists shake out split tones which vamp with animated challenges until the end. These in-the-moment reed responses that move from the hard to the honeyed – there’s even a brief Bossa Nova-like interlude in the penultimate sequence of “Double” – characterize the close interaction between the horn players throughout. Should accelerating percussion power bear down on the saxophonists, they respond with cloying whistles as on “Copy “, a connective continuum eventually takes over.

Musical roles are best defined on the aptly named “Reflection”, where reed overblowing separates into yelps barks and whistles from one player and an unbroken melody line from the other. The percussionists also symmetrically divide their rhythms between high-pitches and low, with some drums beats becoming decidedly rugged while the other sticks to subtle beat coloration, further parameters are defined. Without disruption an alarm-clock like dinging from the drummers’ little instruments, mutes one reedist’s attempt to upset the cumulative groove with reed bites. Later, the finale is properly cohesive without any of the players abandoning individual identities.

Politically, France and the U.S. have rarely been on the same page. When the page involves musical notation however, profound cooperation can result, as this CD demonstrates.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Mirror 2. Double 3. Reflection 4. Copy

Personnel: Fred Jackson Jr. and Stéphane Payen (alto saxophones); Frank Rosalay and Edward Perraud (drums and percussion)