This writer's nonexistent command of the Polish idiom didn't prevent him from taking account of the history and scope of the Fundacja Słuchaj organization, whose intriguing discography began flourishing at the very end of 2014. Names such as Joe Morris, Agustě Fernandez, Barry Guy, Frances-Marie Uitti have been enriching a roster comprising both renowned and local talents. Hamid Drake (drums, frame drums and voice) and Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, alto sax, shakuhachi) belong to "that" category of creative entity: one knows in advance that the only requirements are locating a hospitable couch, press play, and spend some quality time with the natural endowment of exceptional improvisers.
During this performance recorded in Lodz on July 5, 2016, Drake and Rothenberg expressed their vision with absolute serenity, the highly sensitive assuredness founded on strong technical grounds typical of bona fide masters. The first track alone — "Beams Full Dazzling", clocking at 24:38 — would be enough to represent the entire CD. A conversation carried on without haste, two beings offering their bare selves to a music that was already in the air, only waiting for an earthborn medium to be transmitted: precise patterns, gentle crosscurrents, small snippets of songs embedded within the dialogue, therapeutic reiteration.
The subsequent "Tupuri Gifts" is even more hypnotic, leaving the listeners free to find their own path inside the interplay while furnishing immediate comfort to the mind. Throughout the set, the pair's phrasing is infused with "beyond-the-pitch" silences and spaces; the lines around which the acoustic phenomena occur are perceived as geographic coordinates pointing to a single direction. In spite of the prevailing spirit, Drake is occasionally heard joking with the amused audience, and it's nice to hear. But when he intones "Lotus Blooming In The Heart" as a solitary shaman armed with hand percussion, it's real goosebumps before Rothenberg joins him for the second half of the piece.
It is not necessary to shatter the earth to engender music with clout. Certainly aware of this, Drake and Rothenberg trusted their experience of skilled instrumentalists as well as profound human specimens to gift us with long stretches of sheer beauty. Full Circle is a commendable release for this and, especially, for the chance it gives — including the uninitiated — to officially establish the difference between superficial noodling and improvisational serendipity supported by authentic knowledge; that which does not demand the devious ornamentation of words.
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