Sabir Mateen, Patrick Holmes, Federico Ughi

Survival Situation
577 Records CD-R

An improvisational bagatelle created in Italy by three long-time associates, Survival Situation makes no pretense of being a defining document. But during the session’s five tracks monitor how American clarinetist Patrick Holmes and Italian-American drummer Federico Ughi continue to mature as players and catch up with the newest musical constructs of American multi-instrumentalist Sabir Mateen, now an Italian resident.

Playing with the likes of Daniel Carter and William Parker in the past, the three are fully conversant with improvisational language. The modification here is the many auxiliary sounds Mateen has added to his repertoire. He moves among clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, compact organ and even vocalizes. Ughi maintains an always compatible and sometimes rugged beat, while Holmes harmonizes his flutters and twills with Mateen’s reed instruments.

“Freedom of Souls”, the nearly 14½-minute first track is a kaleidoscopic showpiece. Beginning by doubling organ buzzes with clarion clarinet pitches, as the drummer snaps cymbals and pops drum tops, the tempo soon speeds up. Allegro, there’s still room for jagged reed cries as well as Matten's logical or mumbled exhortations. Still, rather than dissolve into cacophony, clarinet flutter-tonguing judder the narrative to a finale.

Ughi frequently demonstrate his sympathetic stop-time rolls and rhythmic slaps, although organ whooshes are minimized. No matter which horn Mateen uses, he and the clarinetist advance appropriate strategies whether creating horizontal unison or dissonant splint tones. Overall, Holmes’ skill is particularly notable on “You Can’t Touch That Because It Didn’t Hurt” when he concludes with a nearly endless vamp of circular breathing.

Clearly though “Clarifying” is the defining track. Unaccompanied altissimo clarinet squeaks mesh with drum shuffles at the top, with Holmes then angling his clarion tones into harmonizing with first bass clarinet and then flute. Eventually as tenor saxophone honks disrupt the narrative, Holmes’ moderato arabesques and Ughi’s rebounds preserve forward motion.

No world-beater, but a fine report card, the disc confirms that the musicians’ situation encompasses inventive patters as well a survival.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Freedom of Souls 2. Souls 3. Layers of Sound 4. Clarifying 5. You Can’t Touch That Because It Didn’t Hurt

Personnel: Patrick Holmes (clarinet); Sabir Mateen (soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinets, flute, Farfisa Matador compact organ, voice) and Federico Ughi (drums)