Saturday, October 25, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Duo in Italy, Trio with a Fuse, and a Duo with a Spark!

Nels Cline/Elliott Sharp: Duo Milano. 2007. Long Song Records: LSRCD 103.

Nels Cline: guitars
Elliott Sharp: guitars

With two guitarists working a similar territory of extended technique on acoustic and electric guitars, listening to this recording leads to several moments of puzzling out who is playing which part. With a few tell-tale Sharp licks in the right speaker I'm inclined to conclude that Nels Cline is on the left. This overlap of sensibilities makes for an engaging listen. The duo format is one that Elliott Sharp has explored frequently - particularly with string players - and his developed technique finds an exceptional sonic environment on this disc. The clean, well-recorded production serves this music well.

Matthew Shipp Trio: Circular Temple. 1994. Infinite Zero: 9 14506-2.

Matthew Shipp: piano
William Parker: bass
Whit Dickey: drums

This early Matthew Shipp effort is well worth revisiting - particularly in light of how much these ears have learned about Shipp and William Parker since the last time I gave this disc a spin. The more I hear, the more impressed I am with these figures of New York's Vision Festival. In Circular Temple there is a great dose of free improvising in four movements held together by a consistent approach and chemistry between players. The intensity and focus in this music is high while the range of durations between movements - from under four minutes to just under half and hour - gives the overall compositional feel an organic quality. The ability of Shipp to light a sonic fuse that Parker and Dickey pick up and throw around makes for a timeless listening experience. Beautiful, texturally thick and focused.

Marty Ehrlich/Myra Melford: Spark! 2007. Palmetto Records: PM 2129.

Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinet
Myra Melford: piano

This one is nearly flawless. Two of the best composer improvisers meeting each other as collaborators with some of the most grounded, intuitively ranging duets for piano and reeds. It's not hard to pick out which pieces are composed by which player. Yet it's the addition (and subtraction) that makes these performances so engaging. Ehrlich's "Hymn" opens and closes this set with its gospel-like inflections and soul-drenched sensibility while "Night" may be my new favorite Melford composition with its tantalizing restraint. Spark! deserves many spins.

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