Jon Rose & Chris Abrahams

Peggy
ReR Megacorp ReR JRCA

Anything but the chamber music session the instrumentation would suggest – although it was literally recorded in the living room of the CD’s dedicatee, the late Peggy Granville-Hicks – Peggy is instead a first-ever duo recording by two venerable Australian improvisers. Pianist Chris Abrahams of the Necks and Jon Rose, who plays every variety of violins and has worked with Johannes Bauer and Veryan Weston among many others, turn a suite of abstract improvisations inside out as they probe every smidgen of available sound. Recorded in real time without edits, the two progressively propel a sequence of five tracks that get radically tougher and more atonal, culminating in the almost-22½ minute interaction that is “Peggy 6”.

Swirling around glissandi, cadenzas and key clanks and clips at speeds ranging from moderato connective to showy, multi-key, pseudo-ragtime, Abrahams makes the perfect foil to Rose’s string swagger. Spraying staccato lines at incredibly high pitches, double stopping, sawing and moving onto thin spiccato runs, the violinist hardly pauses between one swift string slash and the next. By “Peggy 4”, the two have come up with a working aural definition of post-modern music. As Rose abrasively scrapes unusual textures from what’s probably a Hardanger fiddle at a high velocity, the pianist’s tremolo patterning skips along in a contrapuntal manner. Finally Abrahams uses a waterfall of notes to modify the fiddler’s dissonance, so that as his patterns gallop from the bottom of the keyboard’s range by “Peggy 5” he has made common cause with Rose’s stops and shuffles.

“Peggy 6” finds Abrahams experimenting with many keyboard strategies as he appears to searching for the elusive lost note, as Rose erupts into a collection of whorls and whirls. Reaching the track’s mid-point with Rose sounding as he’s detuning his string set, it’s again Abrahams’ tremolo overtones which match the violinist’s final attempt to extract amplified clamor from his instrument, extending it with frog smacks. Suddenly a trickle of downward piano key strokes signals the conclusion.

Not anything to play for fanciers of conventional piano-violin duets, the sheer intensity of this duet shows why both players are experts in communicating improvised music.

—Ken Waxman

Tracks Listing: 1. Peggy 1 2. Peggy 2 3. Peggy 3 4. Peggy 4 5. Peggy 5 6. Peggy 6

Personnel: Jon Rose (violin, tenor violin, Hardanger violin and 'The Bird') and Chris Abrahams (piano)