Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ballister - The Ballister Monologues (Astral Spirits, 2014)

Ballister is a wonderful post-bop/free jazz unit with the awesome lineup of Dave Rempis on saxophones, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. They will play take no prisoners squalling free improvisation which is thrilling to hear, but are also capable of throttling back the actions to sections of spacier, haunting quiet. This album came on cassette tape! How cool is that? Thankfully with a download code since my last tape player went the way of all things a few years ago. The music was recorded live in Austin earlier this year and consists of two side long performances. "The Woman Who Loved to Make Ballisters Happy" is the opening performance and it comes right out of the gate playing hard and fast and very exciting with the raw and ready sound of Rempis' saxophone and withering electronics and jackhammering drums - this kind of intensity would put most rock groups to shame. Listen to an excerpt here. The trio is able to shift through different gears of interplay with Nillsen-Love's drums particularly epic. The music very slowly shifts its course to sections of more space where each member is given a chance to make their statement before falling into a quieter spacious impressionistic phase to end side/track one. "My Angry Ballister" doesn't start out angry at all, but takes up the mantle from the previous track beginning with Rempis exploring empty space with his horn, peeling off waves of raw emotion before the other two members enter the fray. Like the previous track in reverse, the power and majesty of the band's and its music builds back up to a scalding collective free improvisation. The three men work very well together, with Rempis' naked and vulnerable saxophone going from a whisper to a full throated scream at will, and Nilssen-Love, who has seemingly played on 1,000 LP's this year, has pummeling rhythm. Lonberg-Holm is the wild card, almost the trickster as compared to the other more instruments. whether sawing away at his cello or blasting jolts of pure electricity into the proceedings, he has a pivotal role. This was an excellent album, and is well worth picking up for free jazz fans, whether you have a cassette deck handy or not. The Ballister Monologues (mp3)

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