Jesse Dulman/Blaise Siwula

Dark Alleys
Nofrillsmusic nfm 016

Demonstrating that the most supposedly experimental idea in improvised music can be traced to Jazz’s beginnings are these dozen tracks by two members in good standing of the New York underground music scene. Multi-reedist Blaise Siwula, who has played with everyone from Dom Minasi to Luciano Troja; and tubaist Jesse Dulman, whose playing partners have included Ras Moshe and Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre; have tuned out this unpretentious CD after participating in various group sessions over the past two decades. Relaxed but challenging, except for being captured on disc, the concept behind Dark Alleys isn’t that different from what would have occurred 100 years ago in New Orleans when a couple of members of the Tuxedo Brass band or the future Hot Five got together to bounce ideas off one another. Not that there are any standard tune elaborations here. But by accepting Dulman’s and Siwula’s aleatory and atonal leanings as givens, gratification results from close listening.

Intriguingly enough “10-4”, the disc lengthiest track is also the most figurative with slippery, yet graceful brass timbres and reed flutter tonguing. Starting with a warbling bottom, the tune works up from the tuba’s ground bass line to sweet saxophone trills that eventually reveal Siwula propelling the melody with Johnny Hodges-like serenity, despite some final spiky upsurges, while Dulman puffs animatedly. Other pieces such as “Chill in the Café” are more factious. Here the intersection of pressurized tuba blats and continuous reed slurs sets up a rhythmic groove which just as speedily is fractured into doubled tongued flutters from Siwula and subterranean burbles from Dulman.

As the session evolves, variations on diffuse tempos and pitches, double counterpoint are worked out by the two. These include broken-chord expansion, lead-background switches and the introduction of extended techniques. These include pointed and shattered vibration and octave jumps from Siwula, most effectively displayed on the concluding “Silence Is Not Fear”; as well as the tubaist’s nearly unbroken exhalation and echoes that keep descending in pitch on “What’s Your Twenty” in order to intersect with bass clarinet slides and slithers.

Mixed in with all this are sophisticated elaborations of original melodies and rhythmic adroitness that should satisfy everyone but the most musically hidebound. With forthright and unvarnished improvisations, the two conclude that past and future concepts can be melded to an eminent creation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1, Watcha Got For Country 2. Randevous 3 3. What’s Your Twenty 4. Cats in the Corner 5. Turn It Up 6. Noir 7. Ready to Go 8. Chill In the Cafe 9. Grace’s Garden 10. 10-4 11. Dark Alley 12. Silence Is Not Fear

Personnel: Jesse Dulman (tuba) and Blaise Siwula (clarinet, alto and bass clarinets and soprano alto and tenor saxophones)