Sunday, June 08, 2008

Double Duos in the Red

John Berndt/Ben Wright
Bryan Rogers/Matt Engle
@ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
June 7, 2008

John Berndt: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone
Ben Wright: bass

Bryan Rogers: tenor saxophone
Matt Engle: bass

Even within the frame of unpremeditated free improvisation the medium of saxophone and acoustic bass is limited only by the impulse and disposition of the players. In a pair of sets featuring two sets of similar instrumentation - and a single take as a quartet of duos - the range of sound left several canvases splattered from multiple angles of sound.

John Berndt and Ben Wright performed short pieces that played like abstract landscapes. The opening piece featuring sustained tones on the soprano saxophone suggesting vast horizons while Ben Wright explored a bowed texture of natural harmonics. Other pieces from this same set suggested a range of environments as the pair mined a chemistry of responsive interaction. The two joked about "unlearning" over the years of playing together even as their focus and creative responsiveness revealed a startling artistry borne of sympathetic mindfulness of one another.

Bryan Rogers and Matt Engle developed longer pieces that spun together phrases and fragments of linear materials into something suggestive of abstract portraits and imaginary still life drawings. The bubbling intensity of Rogers' playing ebbing in and out of the foreground in a dialogue with Engle.

When assembled as a quartet of two reeds and two bassists the balanced, ear-guided sensibilities opened up into a larger sonic image as each player allowed plenty of space for the energy of improvised materials to find its own course. The extended techniques and mouthpiece-free materials from Berndt providing a percussive presence while Rogers frequently echoed gestures from other parts of the ensemble before adding his own additions to the texture.

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