At this point, when "free jazz" is becoming venerable without even having made more than a dent in mainstream vocabulary, it is always intriguing and satisfying to hear it grow, morphing beyond its tropes into something rich and mysterious. In that light, it is wonderful to hear drummer Hamid Drake and clarinetist Sylvain Kassap, by no means newcomers to any scene, pushing each other's and the music's boundaries at every turn on this excellent double disc.
The longer pieces are dispensed on the first disc, such as the wild and rapidly morphing ride of "Mutual Respect" or the mellifluous "Black Walnuts." This latter is energetically tender, if such a contradiction is at all meaningful, Drake painting in cymbal-driven technicolor, in and out of metric focus, while Kassap speaks in a language of ecstatic microtonal-inflected slides and warbles. It is gratifying to hear the duo egging each other on with monosyllabic exhortations and wondrous laughs which are echoed by those present to hear these spontaneous adventures. The disc ends with the brief but somehow aptly titled "Refreshing Storm," whose comparatively aphoristic form prefigures the second disc's vignettes. Of these, the opener and title track is one of the most original freely minted creations in the set. Kassap had already demonstrated his penchant for playing two instruments from his arsenal of clarinets at a time on the first disc, but here, he raises that talent to an art, accompanied by the bold delicacy and drone of Drake's ubiquitous frame drum. The eventual and militaristically plodding rhythms of "Stubborn Old Folks" could not provide more of a contrast to the languid tones and scales Kassap floats over them only to get in step as the track proceeds. "Of Course!" provides an absolutely riveting conclusion on a small scale, one in which the album's sonic disparities and syntactic prowess present themselves in delicate miniature.
The duo is in control of every gesture as dialogues are shaped and phrases are connected and resolved. Kassap demonstrates, on many occasions, his intimate familiarity with the "classical" music idioms he has mastered, while Drake introduces elements of funk and soul to which Kassap responds with alacrity. The recordings are excellent and alive, especially at those moments when we hear Kassap switching instruments or exclaiming with joy at the music. This is a fine recording of a meeting of two like minds in a rapport that any single descriptive label would stain.
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