June 7, 2021
I Am a Village
FMR CD 597-0920
Liberté Égalité Fraternité
Jazz Werkstatt JW 210
Topping a double bass and drum rhythm section with two reeds is a common improvised music trope. Just how diverse the results can be though is illustrated by a comparison of one live and one studio sets by these periodically convened combos.
Part of a long-running series of performances between veteran Japanese percussionist Sabu Toyozumi and American alto saxophonist Rick Countryman, Philippines recorded I Am a Village’s international reach is extended by adding Filipino double bassist Simon Tan and Malaysian tenor saxophonist Yong Yandesen. Both have worked with the duo in various combinations over the years. A comeback of sorts involving German musicians who have lived in the Netherlands and a Dutch player resident in Germany, Liberté Égalité Fraternité is a new CD by Dalgoo, which existed from 1998 to 2007 and reformed in 2017. The quartet is made up of Germans, bassist Meinrad Kneer and drummer Christian Marien, plus German multi-reedist Tobias Klein who lives in Amsterdam and Dutch multi-reedist Lothar Ohlmeier who lives in Berlin.
Although the Toyozumi set propels the same no-holds-barred Free Jazz he’s been involved with since the 1960s, the sessions appear to be a series of duets and trios rather than the work of a quartet. For instance the one-time “Dialogue between Strings” blends shrill and squeaky vibrations from the drummer’s slippery erhu strings with sul tasto slashes and extended col legno slaps from Tan. When Toyozumi mumbles as he returns to his kit and singular drum smacks and cymbal colors, the connection is cemented. Sonic interaction is of the same high quality elsewhere. However in those instances Tan stays in the background while the drummer’s interaction seems to be only with the saxophonists. The last track has space for a pace-making drum solo that synthesizes treble paradiddles, hearty bass drum pops and clapping rebounds. But this happens just before a sequence where upwards reed squeaks and peeps extend the fluid theme further and further without breaking it. Otherwise the CD’s narratives balance on two poles. Countryman and/or Yandsen lets loose with fragmented doits, double-tongued slurs or squeaky altissimo runs and Toyozumi counters with cymbal clashes, ratamacues or shuffles to maintain the pace. Frequently the dual or triple intensity is consistent or sometimes it diffuses to reveal low-pitched puffs, hard reflux or triple tonguing excitement from the saxophonists.
More closely aligned to group investigations is Dalgoo, which maintains equitable connections during the CD’s 13 (!) selections. The individually titled tracks are actually brief exercises in group improvisations, with more substantive material on the lengthier track, most written by Klein, known for his membership in Spinifex and composing notated music, with some from Kneer, who plays with the likes of Andreas Willers. Ohlmeier and Kneer are part of Julie Sassoon’s band and Marien is busy with multiple Teutonic ensembles. What that means is that the quartet touches a series of moods that run from the well-modulated Hard Bop-like sprint of Klein’s “Lakeish” with woody dissected bass solo and drum rebounds plus intertwined saxophone puffs to his “Listopad”, a soothing and soaring Arcadian theme that mixes slapped and barbed bass lines, warm clarinet tones from one horn and freylekhs-like clarion cleverness from the other. Clarinet counterpoint with balladic perception is also part of Kneer’s “Die Zeit Steht Still” as the horizontal connection is gently harmonized through clarion vibrations from both reeds. “Irr Und Sinn “, another of his pieces is higher-pitched, with undulating variations moving from andante to allegro, as well as the drummer’s gentle swishes and the tenor saxophonist’s irregular. An outlier which shows how the quartet can extend into more advanced territory is Klein’s “Friendly Corpse”. Its AACM-like fanfares separate the florid circus music-like exposition which includes alto saxophone shrills, tenor saxophone smears from Marien’s steadying slaps that culminate in a melodic ending.
Overall the quartet’s work confirms its mastery in skidding from distinctly paced to irregular voiced narratives with mercurial or immutable individual playing when needed. It’s also what distinguishes Dalgoo from the other foursome. Both offer compelling programs, But the European one emphasizes quartet affiliation while the Asian-American one presents four musicians improvising sometimes distantly at the same time.
Track Listing: Village: 1. Tall, the Tree Speaks 2. reAbstraction 3. Dialogue between Strings 4. Evolution Of The Revolution 5. Sum of the Infinite
Personnel: Village: Rick Countryman (alto saxophone); Yong Yandsen (tenor saxophone); Simon Tan (bass) and Sabu Toyozumi (drums and erhu)
Track Listing: Liberté: 1.Vibrate In Sympathy 2. Arabian Oil 3. Irr Und Sinn 4. Egalité 5. Lakeish 6. Die Zeit Steht Still 7. Liberté 8. Friendly Corpse 9. Eens Oneens 10.Fraternité 11. Listopad 12. Gap-toothed Smile 13. Blue Tip Match
Personnel: Liberté: Tobias Klein (alto saxophone, bass and contrabass clarinets) Lothar Ohlmeier (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet); Meinrad Kneer (bass) and Christian Marien (drums)