The israelis stretch the limits of theire respective instruments' techniques.

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happiness for things unseen


Ken Waxman, All about Jazz

Even when it comes to experimental sounds, certain stricture exist, which if not challenged threaten to straightjacket improvisers into pre-determined concepts. Consequently for the indolent or casual listener any saxophone and percussion duo is often slotted within the parameters set up more than 35 years ago by Americans John Coltrane’s and Rahied Ali’s Energy Music on one hand and Briton’s Evan Parker’s and Paul Lytton’s reductionist Free Music on the other.

It’s a tribute to these discs that while two out of three lean towards either side of the continuum, each is inventive enough to circumvent historical precedents. That said, it should also be pointed out that the straightforward and vigorous work done by Israelis Ariel Shibolet on soprano saxophone and Haggai Fershtman on drums was clearly spawned by the forceful time and rhythm bending of Trane and Ali. Equally, it’s hard to imagine the harsh squeals, scrapes, scrubs and shrills that constitute Japanese-American percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani’s encounter with French saxophonist Michel Doneda if Parker and Lytton hadn’t pioneered languid improv with a core of steel many

During the course of this CD, recorded live at two Tel Aviv performance spaces, the Israelis stretch the limits of their respective instruments’ techniques. Although their playing is more closely related to Energy Music than that of the duos on the other two discs, hard, fast phrasing isn’t their only stock in trade. A piece such as “Live at ‘The Box’ 2”, for instance, finds Shibolet using an intense singular tone on his soprano that reflects back into itself as he plays. As Shibolet involves himself in circular-breathed multiphonics, Fershtman’s response is couched in press rolls, ruffs and hollow cymbal clattering.

In a similar fashion, on “A Place for Cy Twombly” – one of the many tunes on three-related CDs the saxophonist has created honoring the late American painter’s art – Shibolet’s sound is staccato and sibilant. Whistling and buzzing split tones become watery as they imply bubbling circular patterns. Meanwhile the drummers scrapes his drums’ sides and rumbles stentorian pulses from their tops while shaking what sounds like a rubber hose in the air.

Nonetheless, the duo’s tougher and more pugnacious side is given an extended showcase on the more-than-27-minute first track. As Fershtman constant phrase-making have him come across as a kosher Elvin Jones, due to cross sticking, press rolls and frequent ruffs, Shibolet too goes through a variety of exercises that put him firmly in the Trane camp. Breaking away from parallel improvisation with drummer, the reedist squeals a bagpipe chanter-like tone which swells until pitch vibrations and note flurries are packed into each altissimo cry. Expanding the narrative so that note stuttering create sequences of split-tone reflux and strained slurs at several speeds and intensities, Shibolet only downshifts slightly near the end to meet the drummer’s ruffs, clatters and press rolls. Finally as Fershtman directly smacks his bass drum and toms, the saxophonist moulds a collection of reed bites into a stretched final riff.

Surprisingly the five tunes which close out the CD balance both reductionist Free Music and harder Energy Music – especially in the saxophonist’s playing. At times Shibolet’s ney-like tone renders multiphonic timbres in a single breath; elsewhere his output turns granular and congested. In most cases, his reed quivers hang in the air long after he stops playing.

No matter which saxophone-drum history you think each of these duos suggest, all have added enough originality to their programs to impress.

--Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Apophenia: 1. Knabble* 2. Fainéant 3. Jirble 4. Camorra*

Personnel: Apophenia: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones plus motors*) and Gino Robair (energized surfaces)

Track Listing: White: 1. You Come With All The Insects 2. Circle Lamp 3. Butterfly Hesitant 4. Fagot 5. Moon Is A Nail 6. The Bee Is Short

Personnel: White: Michel Doneda (soprano and sopranino saxophones) and Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion)

Track Listing: Happiness: 1. Live at “The Box” 1 2. Live at “The Box” 2 3. A Place for Cy Twombly 4. Complete Darkness/bright light. 5. Requiem 6. Live at “Levontin7” 7. Movement 1 8. Movement 2 9. Movement 310. Movement 4

Personnel: Happiness: Ariel Shibolet (soprano saxophone) and Haggai Fershtman (drums)

November 15, 2011