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greg kelley | trumpet | axel dörner | fred lonberg-holm | michael zerang | claque

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Greg Kelley

Trumpet
Meniscus / MNSCS009

Greg Kelley / trumpet

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Dörner / Lonberg-Holm / Zerang

Claque
Meniscus / MNSCS006

Axel Dörner / trumpet, Fred Lonberg-Holm / cello, Michael Zerang / percussion, tubaphone

Two releases from extremely talented trumpeters and the extreme edge of their instrument’s development, if we can still talk in such terms any more. Yet, skeptically postmodern as we are these days, new voices do emerge, with fresh sounds and innovative techniques, however much we may think such things ceased a certain number of decades ago.

Greg Kelley is a fantastic player, a maker of music which is alarming, frightening, funny and endearing at one and the same time. There’s nothing cute or nostalgic in this collection of mainly brief solos, most of which seem to be played on modified trumpets and/or in strange acoustic environments. The very extreme nature of this music — which rarely sounds anythiing like trumpet-playing of any sort, avant garde or otherwise — is its strength, and Kelley does not balk at giving you what feels like a whole new sound-world.

As is often the way with records like this, most of the pieces are dominated by a particular sound or technique which is explored to create the music. The often brutalist effects are heightened by the music’s static qualities and the tendency of pieces to end on a cut, as if the tape was simply switched off. Yet the pieces using breath sounds, particularly the unnamed eighth track, and oddly beautiful, and throughout this CD Kelley gives a virtuoso performance of focussed, determined, controlled music-making backed by a very brave, no-compromise aesthetic. Utterlly brilliant.

Axel Dörner is also a trumpeter who plays around the edges of his instrument. Although not such an extremist as Kelley, his focus on breath and mouth sounds — often seeming to view the trumpet more an an amplifier than an instrument in itself — makes for a demanding and highly creative soundworld.

This trio set is fairly traditional in format, presenting medium-length acoustic improvisations with the cello and drums fitting quite as you might expect into this quite stratified music. Each of the three players is easy to pick out from the others (not such a common thing in music like this) and their interaction is a matter of action at a distance rather than mutual imitation.

This makes for a set of intelligent, stimulating pieces which are pleasing to listen to. Not as challenging as Kelley, perhaps, but certainly more accessible (a word they may not have expected to see in their press, but there it is). Those who enjoy concentrated small-group improv between clever participants would do well to check this out. Richard Cochrane