Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghosts
Nakama Records NKMO19

Stephen Gauci/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea

Studio Sessions Vol. 2

Gauci Music Recordings No #

Favored by multiple innovators including Ornette Coleman and Evan Parker, the simple reed, string and percussion trio continues to be popular for its compact form. Yet this bare-bones configuration is consistently open to emotional and technical resonance as these sessions attest.

Bridging the east-west divide is the debut disc of the Hungary Ghosts trio. A slab of nearly 40 minutes of free-form improvisation it features two Norwegians – percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, one of the music’s most-recorded players and bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen, also part of Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit – plus Malaysian tenor saxophonist Yong Yandsen, whose uncompromising virtuosity is rooted in energetic Aylerain sound augmentations. A continent removed from that Kula Lumpur session is Studio Sessions Vol. 2, another chapter in tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci’s efforts to chronicle Brooklyn local free music scene. Another energetic player, who has recorded with Cooper-Moore and Sandy Ewen among others, Gauci’s joined for five mid-range improvisations on this disc by drummer Kevin Shea and bassist Adam Lane, who have worked with a multitude of other saxophonists including Vinny Golia and Jon Irabagon.

The Hungry Ghosts satisfying their craving for unique nourishment from the get-go, with the saxophonist’s nephritic screams echoing alongside fierce strums from the bassist and hard-hitting smacks from the drummer. As the piece evolves Yandsen tries out all manner of extended reed techniques encompassing split tones, altissimo stutters, triple tonguing and renal basso swoops. As the narrative judders among stair-step pitch variations, cranks and smack spur the interface from the drummer’s chair, while Svendsen, who sometimes reorients the time using two bows simultaneously, keeps the a throbbing, chromatic pulse intact. A primary interlude of barely-there double bass strokes, one-third of way through soon gives way to a wide-tone display of metallic and spittle encrusted vibrations from the saxophonist, whose rowdy output replicates a Malaysian traffic jam all by himself. Whinnying shakes from Yandsen, coupled with pointed drum rim shots and double-stopping octave spanning power from the bassist drives the exposition still further until a final sequence where cymbal clip-clops and reed glossolalia drive the trio-pushed narrative to a multiphonic crescendo. Nilssen-Love’s stentorian gong reverberations signal a musical downshift. Dog-whistle-like reed split tones, swelling sul tasto sweeps from Svendsen and gyrating maraca and ratchet percussion embellishments characterize the final motif which squirms into silence.

If the Hungry Ghosts galvanize with unstoppable energy, then the Brooklynites do the same, but pace themselves by segmenting their improvisation among five tracks. Putting politeness aside, the three are more likely to operate with kicking drum smacks, irregularly vibrated altissimo reed screams and up and down string pumping than more moderated interface. Conclusive climax is reached on the fifth and final track as Gauci’s knife-sharp theme elaboration gives way to a story telling interregnum that finds him testing and weighing each note and tone as he plays it and pulling out all the stops to emphasize a texture-shattering conclusion. Following closely behind are Lane’s pulling and popping string pulsations and Shea’s clatters and clunks.

Earlier on, most notable on the second track, the three have expressed extended techniques at greater length. During that sequence sawing double bass strokes are pulsed and sliced into unique patterns; Shea outputs unexpected duple thumps and place-setting rolls; and Gauci propelling his split tones to elevated sopranissimo and emotional release. Then just when it appears as the textural zenith has been reached a sly near-mainstream counter theme is advanced by the three.

Sessions like these make it clear why this time-tested aggregation is favored by some many exploratory players.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Hungry: 1. Kalmar Union

Personnel: Hungry: Yong Yandsen (tenor saxophone); Christian Meaas Svendsen (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums)

Track Listing: Studio: 1. Studio Sessions Vol. 2 track 1 2. Studio Sessions Vol. 2 track 2 3. Studio Sessions Vol. 2 track 3 4. Studio Sessions Vol. 2 track 4 5. Studio Sessions Vol. 2 track 5

Personnel: Studio: Stephen Gauci (tenor saxophone): Adam Lane (bass) and Kevin Shea (drums)