Saturday, August 04, 2012

Ken Vandermark and Paal-Nilssen Love - Letter to a Stranger (Smalltown Superjazzz)

Saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love have performed together in so many different contexts that they have a near telepathic sensibility of their improvisational contexts. That fact is brought to bear on this duo album recorded in Chicago during January of 2011. Nilssen-Love remains an ever potent force on drums and percussion, while Vandermark deploys his tenor and baritone saxophones along with A and bass clarinets. The music on this album is broken up between five very brief improvisations named "Field" and them numbered sequentially and longer freely improvised performances. The title song "Letter to a Stranger" is a potent and exciting tenor saxophone and drums duet, developing into a great free-flowing conversation. Bursts of saxophone and lighting quick drum responses envelop the music. "Cat in the Water" offers abstract, flighty clarinet and jittery, exiting sounds akin to birds in flight. Squeals of air underpinned by muscular drumming bubble to the surface. Saxophone and drums build slowly on "Crippled Donkey" rolling slowly and inexorably to speed. The music throttles into a mighty and dynamic performance that is full of energy, with great guttural squalls of saxophone and drums. An angular momentum matures on "Bent Corners" with very rapid and action oriented shifts between abstract and open sections and vigorous and energetic music that pulsates with power. This was a fine example of two musicians being locked in the moment with each other and working with the acceptance and appreciation of their partners strength. The music is vigilant and free over the course of different textures and patterns, and constantly engaging to the listener. Letter to a Stranger -

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