Meier-Hanes-Amberg

Staggered Twisted Angled
Wide Ear Records WER 046

Darrifourcq/Hermia/Ceccaldi

Kaijū Eats Cheeseburgers

Hector 04

Two unconventional takes on the expected saxophone-drums trio configuration finds a cello or an electric bass taking the place of the usual bull fiddle. Although adaptable cellists like Fred Lonberg-Holm and Miguel Mira have made cellos a regular part of improvised music ensembles, except in special cases the electric bass is usually preferred for pop and fusion sounds.

That is unless the bassist involved is someone like Brooklyn’s Simon Hanes on Staggered Twisted Angled, who unlike funk-Jazz thumb poppers, and true to the title uses stuttering throbs, inflated drones and acerbic distortions in his playing to give it the same timbral flexibility as displayed by his Swiss partners, tenor saxophonist Elio Amberg and drummer David Meier. Hanes who has worked with John Zorn; Meier, who has been associated with the likes of Yves Theiler; and Amberg, who also leads his own bands, began this transatlantic combo a couple of years ago.

Although the trio avoids Rock clichés, it doesn’t mean that energy is missing. A track such as “Splattered” for instance, includes enough tongue slapping growls, power percussion pushes and splashing string tones to invade Metal territory. However the electrified string spirals, irregularly vibrated honks and cymbal rattles confirm Free Music smarts. Eventually motifs like snare drum pumps, triggered bass squeals and non-stop slurping vibrations from Amberg solidify into a concentrated, but pivoting landscape. Still, despite the high-pitched multiphonics and vigorous expositions, not all sequences are staccato and overbearing. A few are distracted and juddering. Not that they would be confused for pop ballads, but the combination of repetitive bass licks, sliding reed whines and expressive drum rebounds on the final “Wiped” solidifies the program as it sums up the session. Still squeezed reed overblowing and slurred fingering from Hanes that references guitar as well as double bass tropes plus Meier’s detours into multi-directional lumbers which reference Rock as much as Jazz intertwine in parallel lines and cement the group identity.

Over on Kaijū Eats Cheeseburgers, the chordal instrument is Corsican Valentin Ceccaldi’s cello which on tracks like the introductory title track is propelled with the strength and funk that earlier improvising cellists such as Abdul Wadud, known for work with Julius Hemphill could bring out. Ceccaldi, who has recorded with Christian Lillinger and Luis Lopes among many others, joins equally prolific French percussionist Sylvain Darrifourcq, who has worked in Roberto Negro’s group and Belgian tenor saxophonist Manuel Hermia who plays with stylists as different as Samuel Blaser and Teun Verbruggen joins the threesome. Just as Meier-Hanes-Amberg staked out singular sonic territory so too does Darrifourcq/Hermia/Ceccaldi on its five originals which express two modes: loud and boisterous and soft and microtonal.

“Kaijū Eats Cheeseburgers” is an example of the former with its vitality divided among squeaky saxophone split tones, augmented drum pulsations leaning in to the others an contrapuntal string slices. Finally the percussion splat and splatter and Ceccaldi’s walking bass line combine to progressively back the acerbic squeezes in altissimo or more resonating timbres in Hermia’s animated solo. On the other end of the scale almost literally, “Disruption”, consists of intermittent cello strums, lower-case slurs from the saxophonist and tabla-like reverberations from Darrifourcq. Atypically the slowly unraveling sequences collate pointillist string stabs in microtones with immense and expanding low-pitched tone flowing from the tenor saxophonist.

Other tracks give Darrifourcq space to use zither-like strokes to simulate quasi-electronic oscillations; Darrifourcq to demonstrate his groove; and Hermia to work his knowledge of Oriental and Middle-Eastern scales into reed variations seconded by spiccato pushes from Ceccaldi. But for sheer dramatic playing “Bye Bye Charbon” is the zenith, with knife-sharp sul poonticello from the cello strings, concentrated thumps and swelling ruffs from percussionist plus reed theme variations that harden and squeal in layered tandem with the others’ output.

With a minor variance from the standard line-up, both international trios have created worthy arrangement that will inspire listeners.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Staggered: 1. Faced 2. Splattered 3. Hammered 4. Drowsed 5. Weirded 6. Shaped 7. Wiped

Personnel: Staggered: Elio Amberg (tenor saxophone); Simon Hanes (electric bass) and David Meier (drums)

Track Listing: Kaiju: Kaiju eats cheeseburgers 2. Marie Antoinette 3. Disruption 4. Bye Bye Charbon 5. Collapse in sportswear

Personnel: Kaiju: Manuel Hermia (tenor saxophone); Valentin Ceccaldi (cello) and Sylvain Darrifourcq (drums, percussion and zither)