Brandon Seabrook

Astral Spirits AS 132

Substituting a Diddley bow for a double bass may seem a perverse move for an improvising trio that otherwise includes an electric guitar and drums. But the skill with which Cooper Moore uses this baling wire stretched over two nails protruding from a wooden board makes the bass superfluous. Considering that Cooper Moore has played with William Parker and others as hoe-handle harpist as well as pianist should make this additional skill no surprise. At the same time his partners have no trouble adapting either. Drummer Gerald Cleaver has worked with everyone from Matthew Shipp to Larry Ochs, while session leader, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, has been associated with people as different as Cécile McLorant Salvant and Anthony Braxton.

There’s no mainstream tinge is these dedicated improvisations, just the dramatic intersection of super hard but supple percussion, slashing guitar string distortions and an energetic pulse supplied by the Diddley bow. On tunes such as “Dark Bogs” for instance bow throbs lock in with steadfast drum beats to allow Seabrook to run through a spectrum of guitar colors, steadily using passing tones and slurred fingering to strum and frail unexpected patterns. As the three players work through elevated and subterranean theme variations, electric impulses are sometimes infused with sharp licks that suggest bells or vibes textures. Invariably though, as on “Essential Exultations”, Cooper-Moore’s stentorian glass-bottle amplified plucks restrain the variegated guitar action from blasting off into the solar system of no return. In the same way, ringing frails and buzzing tremolo strums from the guitarist reach the zenith of screeching vibrations on the penultimate “Along Comes Diddley”, but power ruffs from the drummer and the twanging tempo of the title instrument keep the tempo angular but associated. That also means that the concluding “Absurdities in Bondage” despite string straining and a shuffle beat reflects the freedom of swing rather than the subjugation of standard forms. Strange instruments and frenetic soloing shouldn’t keep anyone from investigating this expressive disc.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Flexing Fetid and Fecund 2. Dark Bogs 3. Behavioral Tub 4. Essential Exultations 5. Cudgel Majik 6. Dank Esseintes 7. Along Came Diddley 8. Absurdities in Bondage

Personnel: Brandon Seabrook (guitar); Cooper-Moore (Diddley bow) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)