An intriguing recording in many ways, this disc documents a rare joint venture of European and American free improvisers. While there have been many such examples of collectives in the past, these have pretty well occurred across the Big Pond rather than Stateside. But on April 10, 2003, eight musicians found their way to Southern California for an event called the Line Fest. Included here are three Germans (drummer Martin Blume, reedist Wolfgang Fuchs and bassist Torsten Müller - the latter now residing in Vancouver), one Englishman (violinist Philip Wachsmann) and four Americans (harpist Ann LeBaron, guitarist Jeremy Drake, trombonist Tucker Dullin and altoist and bass clarinetist Chris Heenan). It's striking to note that the Europeans are (for once) much better known than their US counterparts (excepting the harpist, of course). But this doesn't mean that the former outshine the latter by virtue of their reputation. Quite to the contrary, because this ensemble is a real collective in which the whole counts more than its individual parts. When it comes to medium to larger sized improvisational groups, there are generally two ways to go about things: either everyone takes a rip and casts aside the need to listen, or each participant chooses to maximize listening by replacing the power play with a greater degree of individual discipline and restraint. For the most part, this ensemble follows the latter course rather than the former, which ought to be expected four string players present. On another count, the inclusion of Wolfgang Fuchs is very telling as well, for he is known as being the nominal leader of a similar size group, the King Übü Orchestrü, an exemplary outfit in terms of group discipline in free music playing. Describing this music is pretty well futile, but still one senses a kind of polarity between the winds and the strings throughout, in that one group of instruments tends to dominate the proceedings for a while, only to let the other take over. Of the seven unnamed tracks (spanning 5 to 12 minutes each) lasting just a little over an hour of total playing time, the final one is probably the most revealing in terms of this shift: whereas the beginning is dominated by hard attacks from the reeds and bone, the horn slowly make room for the pizzicato strings that gradually decrease their activity to a sparse finale. As is the case of much improvised music, the whole process is where the interest lies, and there's no doubting the fact that anyone privy to this session (done in the large living room of a painter friend of Chris Heenan) would have gotten the most out of this. A recording, however well done technically, never quite captures the magic of the event unfolding in real time. Even if this writer might be jaded by his privilege of having such easy access to so much of this kind of music, he is not compelled very often often to go back and listen to works such as this on a regular basis.
Comments and Feedback: