Sunday, May 17, 2020

CD Review: Lina Allemano's Ohrenschmaus -Rats and Mice/ Lina Allemano - Glimmer Glammer

There are several things I would like to write about now, and I thought about grouping them together thematically, rather than by artist. A review of a few solo instrument albums occurred to me. Lina Allemano's solo trumpet disc seemed like the perfect thing to combine with solo albums by saxophonists Steve Lehman and Tim Berne. But I haven't gotten Berne's album yet. His album with Nasheet Waits has only gotten one play so I still want to dig into that, which reinforced the idea of keeping the artists together. Plus Lehman's mini release was quickly followed by another online Pi release by Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd, making the artist and label combinations seem like the way to go. Which brings us to.......

Lina Allemano's Ohrenschmaus
Rats and Mice 

Lina Allemano
Glimmer Glammer

Trumpeter Lina Allemano splits her time between Toronto and Berlin, where she leads a number of groups. Two of them have even made it to Pittsburgh - the thoughtful wild bop of the Lina Allemano Four and the free and raucous Titanium Riot. Based in Berlin, Ohrenschmaus (German for "ear candy") finds her in the company of Norwegian bassist Dan Peter Sundland and German drummer Michael Griener. 

If one were to construct a Venn diagram of Allemano's work, Ohrenschmaus would likely fit in the gray area between her quartet and Titanium Riot. This trio has the frenzy of the latter - in fact the album begins with Allemano emitting some guttural blasts while Griener sounds like he's tinkering in a metal shop. They're also just as likely to settle into a bit more structure, sometimes rubato and sometimes freely but always in a manner where they work in tandem with one another.

Sunderland is credited with electric bass, and several tracks feature him with bow in hand. It infers that he either alternates between the bass guitar and upright, or that his pizzicato work replicates the sounds of bass guitar strings on a fretboard. (A quick Google image search found shots of him playing a hollow body bass guitar, bow in hand so maybe I'm wrong on both guesses.) His seering bow work blends perfectly with Allemano's breathy technique in "Rats, Mice and Everything Nice." In "Ostsee," Sundland and Griener make a rigid 5/8 vamp feel groovy before they toss things into free territory. Griener, who accentuates his kit with metallic artillery, adds color and visceral force to the trio. 

The contributions of the two players gives Allemano the chance to draw on her full range of techniques. After the moments during the first half that evoke a scaled down Art Ensemble, "GrĂ¼ner Schmaus" begins with a crisp, clean line that almost ventures into straightahead territory. Of course it doesn't, but she uses the rhythm section's groove to great advantage. As good as the trio is with the improvisation, Allemano gives the tracks composed lines that bring the ideal amount of cohesion to the freedom, and adding some forward direction.

For Glimmer Glammer, Allemano goes it alone, with just her trumpet and a few resonating devices to bend the sound of her horn. Solo horn albums, as interesting as they are (at least to these ears). can often be more like a series of improvisations each designed to show off different extended techniques rather than act like a solo recital of compositions, spontaneous or otherwise. While Glimmer Glammer does show off some bold technical ideas, it's not chops on display. These are fully developed pieces. In "Portrait of Sticks" she continually returns from improvisations that utlize the range back to a melody that combines bop with a brighter version of "Taps." It sustains itself for all eight minutes, never slowing down.

The multiphonics of "Clamour" come next, with Allemano providing a dead-on imitation of a guitar run through a pedalboard of effects. Through the use of circular breathing, her instrument never even sounds like a trumpet until the final second, when she comes up for air. Things get even more abstract in the title track, with staccato notes breaking through sounds that she produces in her left hand, crumpling paper or something similar.

Allemano was motivated to create the solo album in part due to the 2019 death of her friend and collaborator Justin Haynes. The album closes with a piece dedicated to him, "One Man Down." In it, Allemano deftly alternates between open bell and mute, sliding from one to another in an emotionally direct but extremely dramatic melody. Bookended by lengthy pauses, she glides into to more bottom-end growls, which makes the whole track encapsulate the moods of loss, from reflective to melancholic to distraught. It's a dramatic end to the album and also presents all of Allemano's skills as a player on display.

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