July 11, 2018
Samuel Blaser Trio
Taktlos Zürich 2017
Wolter Wierbos/Jasper Stadhouders/Tim Daisy
Sounds in a Garden
Relay Recordings 017
One freedom now readily apparent in contemporary improvised music is what is considered an appropriate ensemble. Gone are the days where so-called classical chamber group often consisted of only string players or when a jazz combo was a rhythm section plus one to three horn players. While the trios on these somewhat abstruse sessions consist of one brass, one chordal and one percussion instrument, each of the participants have worked in as many unconventional as commonplace configurations to not need a conventional line up. These bands also reflect music’s increasing internationalism. A working group, the Samuel Blaser Trio is headed by a Swiss trombonist as well as consisting of French guitarist Marc Ducret and Danish percussionist Peter Bruun. An ad-hoc grouping, the Sounds in a Garden were made by American drummer Tim Daisy, and two visitors from the Netherlands, celebrated trombonist Wolter Wierbos and Jasper Stadhouders, who plays both guitar and electric bass.
Recorded at a well-received festival gig, Taktlos Zürich 2017 demonstrates how well the band members relate to one another after nearly five years of trio gigs. Despite his name above the title, Blaser composed only one of the tracks; Ducret wrote three, including the nearly 24½ -minute “Stoppage”, Rather than blockage, that tune instead opens up, suite-like in many sequences. Initially slow-textured and echoing, with gentle percussion pings, hollow body pops and dissected brass burrs, the tune sharpens and quickens so that brass tongue flutters and buzzing, Rock-like guitar feedback evolve in double counterpoint as Bruun regularizes the timbral integration with paced beats that develop into an overriding groove. With this steadying ballast, the guitarist is free to explore as many slapping flanges plus tone distortion as he wishes. Eventually Blaser’s hippo-like snorts plus positioned drum pops guide Ducret’s showy note filigree back to a chromatic melody.
From that point on the contrasts between pensive and impetuous are less pronounced, with each trio members demonstrating his ability to instrumentally sing as well as sting. Gentle comping from Ducret is a much a feature as high-pitched fingering, while Blaser’s invention is expressed in raunchy stutters as on “How to Lose” or during the penultimate section of “Jukebox” when he seems to be rolling a selection of textures around his tongue to decide which of the pitch vibrations would be most appropriate to harmonize with the guitarist’s rising tempo. Guttural multiuphonics and animal-like whinnies from the trombonist also characterize the final “How to Lose”, mixed with irregular drum beats and detonation of heavily electronic chording from Ducret, until slurred string fingering and tremolo grace notes from the trombone come together into a simple and satisfying coda.
Due to less frequent collaborations Wierbos/Stadhouders/Daisy are less organized but as inventive on their five-tune recital. Here though, its Stadhouders switching from electric bass backing to foreground guitar licks which defines the interaction divergence. This is especially apparent on “Loose Cannon”, the longest and most rhythmically oriented tracks, which moves through several sound motifs as it defines itself. With Stadhouders' downward chording speedy with metallic coloration and Daisy’s intermittent ruffs and rebounds, Wierbos has a proper capillary showcase for his intense plunger work to the extent that at one point he seems to run out of breath. Eventually the guitarist’s staccato strumming gives way to steadying electric bass drones and drum thumps. Newly energized, the trombonist reaches ecstatic improvisational heights with an output that slides from whinnies, growls and shudders to vocalizing nonsense syllables in Donald Duck-like or mouse-like squeaking, only to fall into understated timbres at the end. The mellow mood to which the three accede can be attributed to this balance between the plump brass blasts and spindly string pressure.
While vociferous power challenges enliven some of the other tunes, this trio’s defining statement is made on the concluding tracks. Spun out of trombone whistles, twanging strings and the pitter-patter of hand drumming, “The Grizzly Purr” and the subsequent brief “Pelvis to Snare” reach story-telling zenith though a chromatic understanding. The ultimate buzzing burr confirms attaining an animated connection that otherwise would be expected from a long-constituted aggregation,
The freedom implicit in uncommon instrumental cooperation plus the input of sophisticated improvisers is what makes both these sessions eminently listenable.
Track Listing: Taktlos: 1. Stoppage 2. Fanfare for a New Theatre/Useless Knowledge 3. Jukebox 4. How to Lose
Personnel: Taktlos: Samuel Blaser (trombone); Marc Ducret (guitar) and Peter Bruun (drums)
Track Listing: Sounds: 1, Finding Things (Opening Statement) 2. Happy to Play 3. Loose Cannon 4. The Grizzly Purr 5. Pelvis to Snare (Closing Statement)
Personnel: Sounds: Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Jasper Stadhouders (guitar, electric bass) and Tim Daisy (drums)