Poulsen / Nielsen / Moholo
Av-Art / AACD1010
Hasse Poulsen / guitar, Peter Friis Nielsen / bass, Louis Moholo / drums
Pass me the Wine, Please
Av-Art / AACD1011
Jari Hongisto / trombone, percussion, Hasse Poulsen / guitar, Teppo Hauta-aho / bass
Treated and Released
Zerx / 019
Paul Pulaski / guitar, Mark Weaver / tuba, Dave Wayne / drums
Grand Cross Eclipse
Zerx / 024
Al Faaet / drums, J A Deane / trombone, electronics, standing waves, bass flute
Bass player Hauta-aho might be known to readers through his work with Trio Nueva Finlandia, but the music he makes with compatriot Hongisto and Danish guitar wizard Hasse Poulsen is a long way from their cool, limpid free jazz. This has much more in common with more conventional kinds of free improvisation, the sort one can hear almost any night of the week — if you know where to go — in London, Berlin or numerous other big European cities. Despite this more generic overall sound, however, there’s some real character here which is quite unique.
Of course, a British writer is bound to compare this group with Iskra, the epochal trio of Derek Bailey, Barry Guy and Paul Rutherford. Well, Hongist does have something of Rutherford about him, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Poulsen opts for a rather jazzier approach than Bailey ever would, and although resolutely atonal and often popping and rattling like the old master himself there’s a swing and drive here more closely connected with Sonny Sharrock.
The bassist is the star of this record, though, playing with wonderful finesse through the eleven “courses” presented here (somebody has a sweet tooth: desert is twenty-five minutes long and covers the last four tracks). What’s particularly pleasing is the way this group is willing to move into areas of rhythmic regularity occasionally, albeit with plenty of complicated polyrhythms resulting from multiple, superimposed tempi. Hauta-aho holds these moments together with enviable grace and clarity; a player who should be better-known internationally.
Poulsen is back in another CD from Av-Art, also released this month, and with another Scandinavian bass player for whom, if there’s much justice in the world, an international reputation surely beckons. Nielsen made a cracking record with Peter Brotzmann last year, and his is another jazzy voice in a free improv world. He shares little else with Hauta-aho, however: his instrument is the bass guitar, and his sound crackles with electricity.
We mentioned Iskra earlier, and actually there are more similarities with this disk than the previous one, just because this is a record of great space and clarity, a set of enervated, langourous improvisations presided over by Moholo’s rolling sizzle cymbal, Nielsen’s pop and rumble, Poulsen’s decadent gestures. It’s slow Sunday afternoon music, music which mostly ambles about without doing much. That’s not a criticism; sometimes oevr-earnest music gets right up your nose, and you just want to hear people playing what they feel like, when they feel like it. And the results are unquestionably varied, from rollicking (but still rather languid) wigging-out all the way down to the near-silent explorations which open “Concert Four”.
Another example of this rich variety is Poulsen’s strange habit of turning into a 1970s white-boy bluesman from time to time, sounding like a particularly deranged Peter Green on “Concert Three”, which is quite diorientating but actually pretty interesting and, at times, funny. It makes the connection between Poulsen and blues- and rock-oriented players like Sharrock and even, dare one say it, Hendrix very clear, and certainly doesn’t detract from the overall spirit fo the disk, which is as laid-back as you like and certainly not hung up on some aesthetic dogma or other. The sound of three guys having fun; sometimes it comes across as a bit of a jam session, but if that sounds appealing it certainly won’t disappoint.
Faaet and Deane, by contrast, make loud, highly-focussed music. There’s no skittering about here, despite the way it looks on paper — don’t be fooled by this duet of drums and trombone, the electronics are what define this record and form the big block of sound which these pieces tend to be carved from. The sounds are generally of the sort heard in sci-fi films as atmospherics; combinations of roaring wind, dripping water, swooping synthesisers and ghostly drones, but Deane piles them up and forces them to rub against one another, creating richly-textured sounds which Faaet’s percussion can give shape to.
One does get respite from the big sounds, of course — on “Zeropoint Chamber”, for example, Deane proves himself a capable flautist which Faaet lays down a groove with sleigh bells and a frame drum (or some similar things), and the electronics take a more filtered, less domineering role. Even at their loudest and most frenetic, however, like Poulsen/Nielsen/Moholo, these guys sound as if they’re in no hurry, as if the whole fifty minutes is the soundtrack to a single establishing shot at the start of a film, a camera tracking slowly across the New Mexico landscape while the credits are still appearing.
And, as with the trio, there’s a delicious paradox here when things hot up and the music becomes funky, loud, aggressive — it somehow never loses that slowness at its heart. This is a record of rare pleasures, perhaps not great or profound or groundbreaking but beautiful and pleasurable, with bits you could (at a push) even dance to. A throbbing, low-slung kind of cool radiates from it; it is hot and cool at the same time, urban and rural, minimal and maximal.
Finally, Protruberance, and another guitar trio whose mission statement is also likely to include phrases like “having a good time” and “getting down”. This is different from the other three disks reviewed here, though, inasmuch as there’s an element of composition here, and a definite, deliberate positioning within the jazz tradition (according to the sleeve notes they even play standards, although sadly there are none here).
Using tuba instead as your bass instrument is always an interesting choice, and here Weaver really pushes the music into shape with his big, rounded bass lines and energetic improvisations. The pieces are simple, linear affairs, almost all composed by the tubist and consisting of little more than a bass line and a complementary melody on guitar. For his part, guitarist Pulaski has a lovely energy in his playing, although he too tends to lapse into blues cliché, and without the attendant re-contextualisation which comes from Poulsen’s much more avant methods. Still, Pulaski is very listenable, and when the tempo cranks up a tests his technique a bit he can be heard to worry at the notes with a rather likable flair for recovering from his clams.
While all this is going on, drummer Wayne kicks the music along at a brisk pace, locked in pretty tight with his partners to produce something very likable indeed, a music which could have been made any time in the last forty years, really, but which sounds fresh enough not to be branded merely retro. It’s jazz with blues, prog folk, even surf elements, a kind of bastardised jazz from the folks in cowboy country, east of the West coast, away from the big cities where the fashionable stuff happens. That’s something it shares with the other three disks here, the promise of a taste of something from slightly outside the categories and the trends set down by the big cities. Richard Cochrane
Al Faaet & J.A. Deane
Percussion & trombone/ electronics. Meteoric engagement. Cumulative effect. Eine Kleine buenas noches nachtfockingmusik. This thing’ll blow the top of your house off. When I played one of the tracks on my radio show at KUNM a listener suffering from cerebral cortical atrophy called to tell me, in slow measured fuming tones: “That record you are playing right now I want you to JAM IT UP YOUR ASS!” Actually, it’s our best seller here at Zerx Industries. Music rating: brutal.
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