Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Return of the New Thing - Alchemy (Not Two, 2008)

This is an interesting band that uses the free jazz of the 1960's (the new thing) as a jumping off point for their modern improvisational flights. Comprised of Jean-Luc Guionnet on alto and soprano saxophones, Dan Warburton on violin and piano, Francois Fuchs on bass and Edward Perraud on percussion, the group recorded this album in Crackow, Poland in the spring of 2007. The three long performances here are completely improvised, I believe, and they are very exciting. The group performs very well together either soloing and supporting each other, or playing together in excellent stretches of collective improvisation. Track one, "29:09" begins in a calm and exploratory manner, but with intensity slowly building like storm clouds gathering on the horizon. When the storm hits at around the 8:00 mark it is led by a stirring saxophone solo over rolling accompaniment. At 12:00, there's a period of calm improvisation led by bass and drums with some gentler saxophone and violin squiggle and wiggle. Intensity slowly ramps up again with some strong and verile saxophone over introspective and probing piano. The juxtaposition of the two sounds makes for an interesting combination. Very intense full band collective improvisation returns for the finale of the piece. The second performance, "24:41" is introduced by a lengthy period of slow and probing interplay between the instruments, with an eerie spacious feel. At the 9:00 mark there is an interesting interlude of saxophone, violin and drums, and then intensity of the music begins to strengthen, with the collective improvisation peaking at the 15:00 mark with some exceptional take-no-prisoners playing. A strong saxophone and drum led improvisation heralds the final performance, "17:20" taking its inspiration from the deeply spiritual music of John Coltrane's final albums. Guionnet is an absolute monster here, tearing up the music with abandon, and the rest of the band supports him with gleeful energy. This is energy music at its finest and is tremendously exciting. I enjoyed this album very music, the players are excellent and the music was consistently engaging and very stimulating. Highly recommended to fans of free improvisation.

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