Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CD Review: Trio Caveat/Josh Sinton - Introspective Athletics/Pine Barren


Trio Caveat - Introspective Athletics/ Josh Sinton - Pine Barren
(Engine)
(Note: The website for Engine seems to have vanished. The url I listed a couple years ago in a review doesn't work anymore. There are a couple different labels with this name, but it is NOT the one that's in Germany, nor is it the one that James McCartney records for. And by the way, who know that Baby Sir Paul was making music?)

Punk rock bands do split singles and split albums all the time, so it's about time that avant garde cats took that idea and ran with it. This is one time that it makes sense to release a 72-minute disc than two 36-minute ones. Further, Engine's production sense (covers printed on recycled chipboard, complete with detailed credits) offers a different take on jamming econo.

Trio Caveat consists of bassist James Ilgenfritz, tenor/soprano saxophonist Jonathan Moritz and guitarist Chris Welcome. With an opening track titled "Clicks, Beeps, Buzzing," it becomes clear that the group gets into free improvisation, with a healthy attitude towards the sounds they create, if the titles are any indication. Things begin with each of them feeling the space, producing some plinking, bowing and blowing, with no one letting a line get too long. This is a subdued free improvisation.

Although Moritz blows almost as hard for quiet sections as the loud ones, this session is not a demonstration of extended techniques, where this reed style joins a steady stream of bows that scrape out extreme harmonics and guitars are ravaged beneath the bridge or over the pick-ups. In fact, "Introspective Athletics" the track glides along as if it were a composed piece, like a ballad that meets some tension along the way. At 6:57, it's also one of only two tracks out of nine that come in over six minutes. Most are five or under.

Not to write off the aformentioned type of extreme improv, but Trio Caveat balances the temptation for extreme free blowing with measured, empathetic interaction. Ilgenfritz and Moritz seem to naturally pull back in "Fractured Flakes, Torrent of Frantic" to let Welcome play a twangy solo that moves upward. The bassist has the spotlight for his own strong arco approach in "Mellifluous Chirps." Moritz works like the glue that holds it together, going from wild bird noises to more orthodox blowing. It's extreme music but it's very engaging.

Josh Sinton describes his solo saxophone and clarinet album as "a (poor) attempt at spiritual alchemy. I made it in the hopes that my own relived memories would not haunt my daughter Zosia." It's probably a good idea to keep these tracks from Zosia for a few years. Everyone else should check them out.

Sinton's axes of choice work well in the solo format: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. "Water for My Father" begins softly with a quiet, simple melody, only to explode as Sinton simultaneously blows and growls through his baritone. Perhaps in response that intense, visceral delivery, "The Earth for My Father" finds him firing off rapid arpeggios up and down his horn via circular breathing, as to prove to Pop he knows his way around the horn. Even though it's an exercise, Sinton makes it work as a performance too.

A track called "My Clarinet Teacher" begins with Sinton intoning, "Eeeeeeeesential principles of good clarinet playing," and going into some catchy bass clarinet licks that digress into nasty honks. Again, he balances out the wild and wooly with the pensive "I'm Still Trying."

By the time "Full of it... Love, That Is" comes around, it comes as no surprise that Sinton would dive into the contrabass clarinet's lower register for some ugly squonk. (Hell, I would too.) What's refreshing is his command of the instrument, which sounds like a cross between a gong and an industrial vacuum cleaner. For album closer "Through the Trees I Saw Stone Caves on a Beach," Sinton overdubs all three horns (some multiple times) to create a densely layered, somewhat repetitive, rhythmically loose but ultimately satisfying work that proves these big horns can float easily when given the right ideas.

If he sounds this good on his own, I'd like to hear him with a group.

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