Quartet & Quintet

Double Vortex
New Wave of Jazz NWOJ 0013

Without a tinge of nostalgia, this two-CD set of saxophone-heavy improvisations still brings up memories of the 1960s heyday of the New Thing when extended and exploratory free-for-all sessions were the norm. With the possible exception of Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries, who is far more nuanced player than any six-stringer of those times, the blasting wind power from the reeds could fit in with Albert Ayler and Charles Tyler’s Judson Hall date or Willem Breuker’s, Evan Parker’s and Peter Brötzmann’s playing on the Machine Gun LP.

Recorded live at London’s Vortex Jazz Club, each CD is an extended self-contained improvisation, whose main difference is the second-disc addition of a third voice – veteran British alto and baritone saxophonist Alan Wilkinson – to the core band of Serries, UK drummer Andrew Lisle and fellow Brit, alto and baritone saxophonist Colin Webster, who constitute the Kodian trio, plus American tenor saxophonist John Dikeman. Collectively the musicians have worked in various ensembles with bassists Simon H. Fell, William Parker and John Edwards; drummers Paul Hession, Steve Noble and Hamid Drake among many others, making them ready for anything.

Serries whose other affiliations include Rock and noise bands, sets the tone with a, slashing, knob-twisting introduction on CD1 and maintains an intermittent affiliated buzzing, that mixed with Lisle’s backbeat drumming provide the landscape upon which Dikeman’s and Webster’s timbral extensions are given free range. Glossolalia, freak notes, growls and grunts are some of the intense vibrations regularly propelled by the saxophonists. Off-centre baritone sax snorts coupled with guitar-string vibrations slow the tempo slightly mid-way through, leaving space for an archeological-style examination of his horn’s limits by Dikeman. Transcending a related trope from Webster’s alto saxophone, Lisle’s gong resonation and Serries’ echoing strums presage the improvisation’s final sequences which meld the exploratory and the grounded. Triggered reed blasts and squeezed altissimo noises become less pressurized as harsh guitar flanges signal the ending.

Ten minutes longer and with Wilkinson added CD2 begins with massed triples saxophone kinetics and works itself into a crescendo of interlocked reed screams and pointed guitar crunches. Layered but mercurial the stacked horn vibrations soon separate into individual showcases. Unaccompanied, Dikeman launches screeching tenor tongues tone repetitions into orbit; on baritone Webster snorts out sly variations on the non-existence theme; while Wilkinson’s flutter-tongued exposition moves from tension-ridden to tender. However, drum rolls and pops prevent the multi-directional reed vamps from destroying any semblance of linear movement, although it takes a downshifting of the guitar lines from slashing flanges to reflective tones to further moderate the performance. Like bratty children skirting a parental time-out, another crescendo is reached when the saxophonist contrapuntally challenge the rhythm section with more extended, layered and often tandem expositions, deconstructing and reconstructing the narrative and encompassing flattement, mouthpiece-removed wah-wahs and gooey-thick basso lows. Eventually Serries’ crunching runs triumph over reed distortions to unite the group into a moderated ending.

Quicksilver timbral excitement for the 21st Century these two improvisations demonstrate that NewThing echoes can remains modern and distinct. Done right, a hearty buzz of unbridled elation still bubbles from this sound stimulation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1:1: Quartet live at Vortex Jazz Club February 8th 2017 CD2: 1: Quintet live at Vortex Jazz Club February 8th 2017*

Personnel: Colin Webster (alto and baritone saxophones); Alan Wilkinson (alto and baritone saxophones)*; John Dikeman (tenor saxophone); Dirk Serries (guitar) and Andrew Lisle (drums)