Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lean Left - The Ex Guitars meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo: Volume 1 (Smalltown Superjazz, 2010)

This is a fascinating collaboration of avant-garde rock and jazz musicians coming together to make completely improvised music in the moment. Recorded live at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, the group consists of Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor of the Dutch punk rock band The Ex on guitars, with Ken Vandermark on tenor saxophone and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. The concert opens with tenor and drums in a duet setting on the opening track, "Left Lung," building in a fast paced and exciting formation. The dialogue is stark and sharp, shifting between funky and free accentuated with streaks of guttural rawness. "Lean Over" continues the sax and drums dialogue before the guitars slowly and almost imperceptibly enter and engage the music. The rubber really meets the road in the epic "Right Lung" which is a very dynamic performance with the entire quartet spontaneously exploring different textures and tempos. A scraping and slowly developing abstract improvisation evolves into higher intensity as the musicians engage deeply in conversation. The music develops into a swaggering quasi-funk section (reminiscent of Vandermark's wonderful and sadly dormant Spaceways Incorporated group) with deep tenor saxophone, powerhouse drumming and guitar accents. A shift in the dynamic brings them to a more open section with squeals and squalls of open expression, before building back to scratching guitars, honking saxophone and pounding drums. The group has one more trick up their sleeves on this very long performance and that is to cut off abruptly for a few seconds and re-emerge with drops and smears of wide open percussion and Vandermark switching to clarinet which provides pastel shaded tones then bleats and squeals of pointillist music. They bring it all back home on "Lung Leftover" a short three minute throat clearing blowout, fast and wild and building to an apocalyptic conclusion. This was a wild and exciting collaboration of like minded musicians from across genres, and it worked really well. Far from two disparate duos, they are a fully integrated band, making exciting and spontaneous music.

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