Friday, June 11, 2010

Frank Gratkowski and Hamid Drake - Untitled (Valid, 2010)

American drummer and percussionist Hamid Drake is the great griot of modern jazz, telling wonderful stories with his instruments and acting as a catalyst for many great musicians like William Parker, Peter Brotzmann and Sabir Mateen. On this album he meets the German reeds player Frank Gratkowski in an amicable free form setting, with the music ranging widely from slow abstraction to all out free jazz. The twenty minute epic "Brother G's Walk" begins slowly with the musicians feeling each other out with low tones of saxophone and light percussive sweeps. The music builds to a fast paced duet section featuring raw toned saxophone, and nimble drums that deftly employ touches of funk to keep the music moving forward. Employing a loud-soft dynamic, the music moves inexorably forward, rising and falling like the tide. "Square Root of Distraction" is a spare and abstract performance with long, low arcs of bass clarinet and skittish percussion. Slow and probing, the music explores the interface of silence and music. "Varm Somehow" increases the pace with Drake holding a steady beat for Gratkowski's bleating horn to revolve around. Both men are super tight and well attuned to each other at the high tempo, making music that is very exciting and inventive. "Well, It's Complicated" opens slowly with open bass clarinet swirling over spacious drumwork. The music picks up speed and develops into a fast paced and exciting free jazz dialog, where a range of ideas, thoughts and expositions are explored. This was a fine meeting of the musical minds, where two like minded explorers strike out for the hinterlands of improvised music, and find much to be enthused about. Frank Gratkowski and Hamid Drake -

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