Bass Clarinetists: Rudi Mahall, Matt Lavelle & Jacques Foschia
Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall
Jacques Foschia/Mike Goyvaerts/Christoph Irmer/George Wissel
Three bass clarinetists have put forth albums in these hard times, aiming to earn respect for that dour, difficult instrument. Rudi Mahall especially earns praise.
Irony and affectionate satire rule Evergreen, 14 canny duos with formidable Japanese pianist Aki Takase. Mahall and Takase play with relaxed tongue-in-cheek on familiar tunes, which they alternately enshrine and deconstruct in fast-paced three- to five-minute treatments. Not to say they don't vary tempos wildly: "I'll Remember April" goes superfast while "Two Sleepy People" nearly grinds to a halt. Their "Tea for Two" goes cha-cha yet "Mood Indigo" starts as semi-straight Harry Carney but does a 180-degree flip into New Thing (as does "You And The Night And The Music"). Given the narrow confines of personnel and their eye-to-eye sense of humor, Takase merits more solo space; witness her fine turns on "Mood Indigo" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?" Mahallthe crotchety outsidercoughs up gruff grunts on "Good Bait," jaunty growls on "You Took Advantage of Me" and, for superb contrast, staggers "Paper Moon" slow and halting over Takase's fleet, steady eighth-note lines. Mahall, warts aflame and snorts ablaze, at least offers a viable personalitya human voiceon his instrument. Less so the others.
Matt Lavelle alternates between brass coloration (trumpet, flugelhorn) and reed statements (adenoidal bass clarinet) for The Manifestation Drama, backed by a plucky if somewhat tentative trio, Morcilla (conga, bass, piano). "God Love Sex" opens heavily, leading their untidy romp through kernels of rumba-like rhythms. On ballad "Synthesthesia" Chris Forbes' out-of-tune piano ruminations lead to nasal clarinet sweeps. For much of this set the band meanders morosely, eventually igniting a few sputtering sparks of life. With a leaden pace, they ponder onerous concepts (see title) and occasionally invoke latter-day shades of black music (Pharoah Sanders on the declamatory "Living Desire"; Art Ensemble of Chicago on the ritualistic "OC DC BC"), building brief puffs of steam, as on "Eternity Tree," a brisk duo between Andre Martinez' congas and the leader's muted trumpet. More often Lavelle's bass clarinet wallows into dead ends over flailing piano and Francois Grillot's wobbly bowed (if well-plucked) bass. Though they get more going at medium tempos, they more often opt for subdued ones.
The Canaries on the Pole #2 are Brussels-based Jacques Foschia (eb and bass clarinets), Christoph Irmer (violin), Georg Wissel ('prepared' saxophones) and Mike Goyvaerts (percussion, etc.) Canaries show uncanny affect for surroundings, whether bandmembers or ambient neighborhood (hours sounding and carillon from church outside their open window on "In/Out"). Sonic variegation of instruments assures a certain degree of timbral and textural interest, even if the gamut runs leanthe tenor's wheezes and mouthpiece squawks or bass clarinet trills and grumbles; the violin's dry pizzicato and eerie harmonics. Still, overall, the date is kinda tetchy, wispy, faint and bone-dry. Since the longest stretch of pitched sounds come from a church carillon across the street on "In/Out" (and occasional brief altissimo lines and the odd tremolo from Irmer's fiddle) this may qualify the album's genre as 'real-time atmospherics.' Chicken scratchings (fiddle, percussion) and cluckings (two horns) account for much of the rest. Whether the barnyard rants run fast and funny ("Fur Lotte") or slow and hazy ("Compression") or faint coyote-yodel-y ("Once Upon"), the players' insistent preoccupation with bizarre sounds for their own sake soon grates. Only on that latter track does Foschia playfor a hot minutea gritty, sforzando-rich passage that sounds like...a bass clarinet!
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Mood Indigo; I'll Remember April; Bel Ami; Tea For Two; Moonglow; You And The Night And The Music; How Long Has This Been Going On?; Cleopatra's Dream; I'm Beginning To See The Light; Two Sleepy People; Good Bait; You Took Advantage Of Me; It's Only A Paper Moon; Lulu's back In Town.
Personnel: Aki Takase: piano; Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet.
The Manifestation Drama
Tracks: God Love Sex; Synesthesia; The Eternity Tree; The Manifestation Drama; The Living Desire; OC DC BC; Weather Shamanism.
Personnel: Matt Lavelle: trumpet, bass clarinet; Chris Forbes: piano; Francois Grillot: bass; Andre Martinez: drums.
Canaries on the Pole #2
Tracks: may i help you?; in / out*; decompression; für lotte; compression; once upon; fishing for compliments; 5%; schone mullerei; the great ippener.
Personnel: Jacques Foschia: eb & bass clarinet; Christoph Irmer: violin; Georg Wissel: alto & tenor saxophones, objects; Mike Goyvaerts: percussion, objects, toys.