Bucher/Countryman

Estuary
Manila Free Jazz No #

Aram Shelton/Håkon Berre

Dormancy

No Label No #

Mette Rasmussen/Chris Corsano

A View of the Moon (from the Sun)

Clean Feed CF 493 CD

Constantly practiced so that it hardly seems novel, the completely improvised saxophone-drum duo has become as much a part of contemporary discourse as the Jazz piano trio. Still as these alto saxophone-percussion connections prove, virtuosity must be mixed with a certain sophistication to overcome self-indulgent tendencies that lurk beneath every one of these meetings.

Interestingly enough each of these sets involves two players with similar mindsets, but arriving from different countries. Dormancy, for instance featuring American saxophonist Aram Shelton and Norwegian drummer Håkon Berre was recorded in Copenhagen, where the later now lives. Estuary, which showcases the talents of American altoist Rick Countryman and Swiss drummer Christian Bucher arrives from an improv session recorded in the Philippines, where the former is now based; while A View of the Moon (from the Sun) with American drummer Chris Corsano and Danish, but Trondheim-based alto saxophonist Mette Rasmussen comes from a concert in Ljubljana.

Sounding most as if it was conceived of on the fly, Dormancy’s eight tracks still confirm the in-the-moment cooperation which has evolved between Shelton, who has worked with the likes of Kyle Bruckmsnn and Tim Daisy and Berre, whose credits include time playing with stylists like Peter Brötzmann and Kasper Tranberg. Involved with lower-case improvising most of the time, the two evolve the tracks with non-specific and intermittent clanks, clicks and crunching fills. Also matched is the occasional cymbal sizzle from the percussionist as the saxophonist spews out concentrated reed notes with barely a ripple in his solid blowing. Recorded in a real time, the CD becomes more animated during the appropriately titled “Mobilization”. Here Shelton’s inflated vibrations and watery tongue slaps and Berre’s singular plinks suggest enough virtuosic diffidence to set up the concluding “Flowering”, the session’s longest and most abstract improvisation. Enlivened with saxophone snarls and wider reed textures that highlight not only individual notes but their extensions, buzzing intensity is expressed. This is especially notable when the reed narrative meets up with stacked wood slaps, bell clatters and cymbal rubs from the drummer, with the blend climaxing appropriately and fading within seconds.

More aggressive, the eight tracks on the brief Estuary were recorded live in Manila with sufficient space give for Freeboppy altissimo runs from Countryman, who has recorded with Sabu Toyozumi and the pushes and pacing of Bucher, with many sessions under his belt with fellow Swiss like Andreas Glauser and Beat Fehlmann, Like the collaboration on Dormancy this duo’s connectivity heightens as the session progresses. The saxophonist logical note build up is refined on “Inexplicit Groove” when flashes of what could be a mainstream melody peek from his playing. However the drummer’s double-speed claps appear more attuned to when Countryman returns to suddenly express high pitches and slurs. As the program reaches the final “Neverland” speedy drum rolls and saxophone smears in lower almost tenor sax pitch, flirt with the spectre of the famous John Coltrane-Rashied Ali sessions, but percussion power and altissimo snarls on the reedist’s part confirm the two players individuality.

Another live performance, A View of the Moon (from the Sun), also hits the ground running since Rasmussen, known for her work with bands like Trio Riot and Cocaine Piss (!) and Corsano, who has partnered everyone from Joe McPhee to Thurston Moore, are fervent practitioners of ecstatic, in-your-face improvising. Dividing their narratives into eight tunes as do the other duos, Rasmussen and Corsano also have periods of respite, as on “Folding In On Itself”, which is still concentrated, but more relaxed than most of the pieces. Here expressive, meandering tongue slaps and crying slurs from the saxophonist and dynamic clip clops from the drummer feint and follow, although Rasmussen can’t resists ending the piece in screech mode. Although there are other instances of flat-line blowing, most of the duo’s expositions are like the one on “Let's Have a Raincheck on the Franchise”, where the propelled horn notes resemble frenetic touch typing, Corsano slaps out drum beats and the tune ends abruptly as if the idea flow has been exhausted. With push-and-pull variables echoing throughout from both players, climaxes are set up via dog-whistle elevated timbres from the saxophonist more frequently than with almost-mellow warbles. Things do slow down enough on the concluding “Another Detail” though to attain a double gaited groove that is both animated and atonal. Instructively, split tones give way to near silence in the middle section and then reverse to attain what appears to be playing in the saxophonist’s highest range alongside the drummer’s most powerfully propelled beats. But it’s in that section that this duo expresses its connection to the other two. With an ability to play as minimalist as Shelton/Berre in spots, or as Free Jazzy as Bucher/Countryman in others; and having mostly expressed the free-flowing abstraction in which all excel, the reason for the continued popularity of this format is confirmed from all concerned.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Dormancy: 1. New Growth 2. Light 3. Water 4. Respiration 5. Mobilization 6. Embryo 7. Seedling 8. Flowering

Personnel: Dormancy: Aram Shelton (alto saxophone) and Håkon Berre (percussion)

Track Listing: Estuary: 1. Dolphinity 2. Coconut 3. Inexplicit Groove 4. Broken 5. First Tributary 6. Mine Are Blues 7. Second Tributary 8. Bye Bye Butterfly 9. Neverland

Personnel: Estuary: Rick Countryman (alto saxophone) and Christian Bucher (drums)

Track Listing: View: 1. Many People Were Scandalized - Some Still Are 2. Folding In On Itself 3. Let's Have A Raincheck On The Franchise 4. Today's White Blood Cell 5. Well Now, There, Then 6. You're Breaking Up, The House Is Going through a Tunnel 7. A Detail 8. Another Detail

Personnel: View: Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone) and Chris Corsano (drums and slide clarinets)