Peter Evans/Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy

Free Radicals at DOM
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR15/2018



MultiKulti Project MPSMT 011

One brass player, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández and a trio setting unite these two discs, recorded within four days of one another, but 3,600 kilometers apart. Yet besides pinpointing the speed of 21st Century travel, the two, although comparably superlative, share more differences than similarities. In short form: Barcelona-recorded Venusik is a Free Music session, whereas Moscow-recoded Free Radicals at DOM is closer to Free Jazz.

The definitions involve more than hair splitting. On the Spanish disc for instance, German trumpeter Axel Dörner uses his horn more as a sound generator than a brass instrument and extends the resulting textures with electronics. Fernández spends more of his time worrying inner piano strings than on the keyboard, while the irregular cadenzas and rhythmic deviance created by the drums and percussion of Catalan Ramon Prats add to atonal considerations. Free Radicals are an on-again-off-again configuration featuring British bassist Barry Guy and American trumpeter Peter Evans. While the enthusiastic DOM audience may have reveled in the trio’s non-conformist groove, the astringent strategies practiced by the three put them closer to the Jazz idiom than Dörner-Fernández-Prats.

Keyboard chording, drum pitter-pattering and rooster-like brass notes are first heard in the final section of “AEM”, Venusik’s premier track which until then has consisted of slight puffs, string sawing and slashing, understated reverberations from each trio member. This strategy continues during the four remaining selections. In this live performance the trio members build up a magisterial narrative through ping-ponging key clips and string strums; disconnected percussion clunks and cymbal clank; plus hovering brass tones that in a jiffy move from spetrofluctuation to frog-like blats and Maynard Ferguson-like fanfares. A multipart crescendo and distinctive climax is reached on the more than 17½ minute concluding “SNSB”. Melding tropes from earlier in the program, the excitement level intensifies with anvil-hard drum smacks and scrubbing string-key motions surrounding Dörner’s smeared intonation. As the dangling layers intersect with hissing oscillations as accompaniment, pressurized keyboard patterns, cymbal resounds and mercurial brass flutters work up to freight-train-like pressure only to deflate with trumpet snorts and electronic wiggles at the end.,

Fernández’s habit of doubling neither one nor the other of his playing partners’ plans pays dividends in Moscow as Evans’ familiar trumpet tones and Guy’s below-the-bridge bow vibrations intensify through the three sound elaborations in each live sets and a raucous encore. With each player allowed mini showcases in which to emphasize his technical smarts, extended techniques such as frenetic capillary tone chewing, stopped, strummed and plucked piano strings and buzzing sweeps encompassing sul tasto and sul ponticello double bass buses are accepted as customary. Thus a sudden dig into extreme bow angling by the bassist is met with syncopation and obtuse equilibrium by the others. When the pianist spins out moored patterning the translucent connection is maintained. Acceptance of pressurized staccato runs from both piano and double bass plus hurricane-form brassiness from Evans connects during “Second Set – Three”, where more delicate keyboard chording, and slow-paced trumpet flutters that nearly approximate “Taps” signal the ending. Evidentially anticipating audience demands, which respond with vociferous huzzahs, the encore is all power trio tropes, with pressurized brass puffs from the highest to lowest register, variegated piano kinetics and spiccato bow sweeps from the bassist.

Dynamic in performance, both ensembles' musical strategies are satisfying and well received by both audiences. And each shows off Fernández’s individual approach to aid in maximum sound integration during both situations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Venusik: 1. AEM 2. SSO 3. SRON 4. SUPARCO 5. SNSB

Personnel: Venusik: Axel Dörner (trumpet and electronics); Agustí Fernández (piano) and Ramon Prats (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Free: 1. First Set - One 2. First Set - Two 3. First Set - Three 4. Second Set - One 5. Second Set - Two 6. Second Set - Three 7. Encore

Personnel: Free: Peter Evans (trumpet); Agustí Fernández (piano) and Barry Guy (bass)