Phil Grenadier / Bruno Raberg: Plunge (2012)
There are conspicuously few trumpet and bass duo recordings in the archives of jazz, though the rationale is not obvious. The sonic characteristics of the two instruments work surprisingly well in the hands of disciplined artists who emphasize the creative process over fireworks. Trumpeter Phil Grenadier, brother of bassist Larry Grenadier, is teamed with bassist Bruno Råberg on the very inventive and gratifying Plunge. The collection features eighteen original and completely improvised pieces, broken into several segments, and a cover of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The emphasis here is on experimental soundscapes that incorporate the atonal and the melodic in equal measure. At first listen, it sounds as though Grenadier and Råberg are employing electronics to fill the acoustic environment. In fact, their technique was to record an initial improvisation, and then accompany themselves by playing freely again, over that initial improv. Despite the technical manipulations, the songs have a surprisingly warm and organic feel to them. The innovations do not jarringly compete for attention with the more trance-like feeling of the pieces. Among the numerously unanticipated aspects of Plunge, there is a remarkable diversity of styles created in real time. Grenadier's occasionally plaintive wails on "Suzaku- Vermillion Bird" add a level of emotion that is often missing from experimental music. On "Heartwood," Råberg's tapping of the acoustic bass simulates a heartbeat as the trumpet rises, falls, and growls like a trombone. "Triangulum" has a beautifully ethereal and eerie quality about it. On the duo's take of saxophonist Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," Grenadier channels Miles Davis in a manner consistent with the trumpeter's film noir soundtrack, Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud (Verve Records, 1957). Experimental music tends to be polarizing; it can be austere or trifling, but is invariably the testing ground for breakout innovators. Without sacrificing melody, Grenadier and Råberg have delivered rare examples of creative brilliance on Plunge. For both purists and explorers alike, there is strong appeal to this collection. The music is inventive, haunting and personal.
Track Listing: Reveille; Last Train to Seville; Five Short Pieces: Seiryuu- Azure Dragon, Byakko - White Tiger, Suzaku - Vermillion Bird, Genbu - Black Tortoise, Ouryu - Yellow Dragon; Lonely Woman; Heartwood; Ushas/Quadratic; Intersections I - IV: Part 1 - Moving Cycles, Part 2 - Line and Sphere, Part 3 - Sand Clock, Part 4 - Isomorphic; Area 51; The Outermost Island; Triangulum; Lizrael; Intersections V: Part 5 - Being and Time.
Personnel: Phil Grenadier: trumpet; Bruno Råberg: acoustic bass, sound design.