Ericson/Nästesjö/Berre

Ausfahrt Freihalten!
Barefoot Records BFEC 058 CD

Actually the long and the short of the matter is deciding how many tracks are needed for an improvised music trio session. There’s obviously no definitive answer. But in these cases, when comparing reed-bass-and-drums trio CDs, despite the equal quality of playing, Ausfahrt Freihalten’s eight tracks result in a more coherent program than the 15 on A Room for You. The reason may be is that while brevity may be the soul of wit, it isn’t the same for music. The seven tracks of around half-a-minute each on the Falb/Holub/Satzinger session come across as mere amuse-gueules that could just as easily be codas to the previous track.

This is most apparent with the reed exposition of “Eye Poker”, which sounds like a continuation of “Afterwards” that precedes it. Slow-paced the piece showcases the slinky tones of Austrian alto saxophonist Viola Falb, which skirt discordance to settle into exposition midway on the Paul Desmond-Jackie McLean dichotomy. Other instances of this concept are the two sliding and slapping tunes that surround the extended “Breakfast as Dinner”. Making room in the mid-section for a short series of paradiddles and echoes from American drummer Mark Holub, the saxophonist’s slack arabesques and arpeggiated decorations slide the theme into tough strums from Austrian bassist Bernd Satzinger until finally his wooden thumps contrast enough with Falb’s yearning cries to set up a singularly ingenious narrative.

Otherwise certain sections within other protracted tunes allow space for each player to isolate his or her particular sound strategies, whether it’s clip-clops and ruffs as well as gong intimations from Holub, slaps and wide echoes from Satzinger or lurid slurs or pinpointed tongue flutters from Falb. Saving the best for the final tracks, “False Tears” shows that a restrained exposition can be both mordant and mournful if characterized by varied tempo bites and stops from the saxophonist, seconded by string plucks and drum patterning. Separated by another mini-exercise, “Rusty Soles” ends the disc on a literal high note, as it’s splayed faster and looser than most of the preceding tunes. Vigorous elation is expressed throughout with bordering-on-dissonant double tonguing from Falb, energetic pumps from Holub and edgy pulsations from Satzinger.

Each member of the Viennese trio has notable experience, Falb who plays in a duo with Satzinger, and on other projects with Michael Bruckner-Weinhuber and Martin Ptak; Satzinger works with the likes of Hannes Löschel and Maja Osojnik; and the drummer is leader/composer of the Led Bib band. Background is somewhat similar with the Copenhagen-based band. Swedish bassist Johannes Nästesjö has worked with Lotte Anker and Vasco Trilla; fellow Swede Sture Ericson has played alto saxophone and clarinet with Raymond Strid Rhodri Davies; while Norwegian drummer Håkon Berre has been associated with everyone from Susana Santos Silva to Aram Shelton.

Although unpalatable atonality isn’t part of the picture, the Scandinavian trio is more committed to exploratory improvisation than the Austrian crew. Pulsating motion and thematic development are part of the plan however at the same time as echoes and understatement lead the three towards minimalism. Oddly it’s on “Gegenüber”, one of the few tracks to feature Ericson’s clarinet, that this is most noticeable. As he expressively whines his way up in pitches with squeaks and slurps, the equally brief string thumps and drum clops move in the opposite direction. With most tracks in the five to six-minute range, bulk is avoided, but there is a reasonable amount of space in which to stretch ideas,

The concept is expressed positively at the session’s centre with the subsequent tracks “Zwischen” and “Anstatt”. Something of a bass feature the introductory scratches and splays from Nästesjö on the first tune escalates to wood slapping and triple stopping and a reverberating final string slap. Still the bass rumble is matched by pops and shakes from the drums and burbling tongue stops from the saxophonist. During another agile turnaround on “Anstatt” Ericson’s quiet introductory puffs turn to overblowing and reed-squeaking, along with drum pitter-patter and splayed thumps from the bassist, climaxing as stark beats shadow the reed line being stretched lengthwise without breaking.

Meanwhile the most outside of the CD tracks almost occurs on “Durch”, the disc’s final track. For once Ericson’s output resembles a combination of choking throat noises and crows cawing as delicate string pumps and drum clatter speed up to match the reed climb to sopranissimo. Soon the three are involved in a dialogue that embeds narrow reed bites within tremolo drum beat rotations and bass thumps that swirl towards a contrapuntal ending.

While the musical creativity on A Room for You at a high enough level, eliminating the interludes and extending other tracks would have created superior product. For that reason Ausfahrt Freihalten would appear to be a more complete statement.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ausfahrt: 1. Entlang 2. Neben 3. Gegenüber 4. Während 5. Zwischen 6. Anstatt 7. Hinter 8. Durch

Personnel: Ausfahrt: Sture Ericson (alto saxophone, clarinet and preparations); Johannes Nästesjö (bass and preparations) and Håkon Berre (drums and preparations

Track Listing: Room: 1. Cash Cow 2. Afterwards 3. Eye Poker 4. Downy Beard 5. A Line 6. A Room for You 7. Dry Deposition 8. Missing Link 9. Mixed Blessings 10. Private Conversation 11. Breakfast as Dinner 12. Quantum Readjustment 13. False Tears 14. You Can't Unthink a Thought 15. Rusty Soles

Personnel: Room: Viola Falb (alto saxophone); Bernd Satzinger (bass) and Mark Holub (drums)