Tuesday, February 11, 2014
ASSIF TSAHAR / HUGH RAGIN / PETER KOWALD / HAMID DRAKE – Open Systems (2001)
Label: Marge – 28
Format: CD, Album; Country: France - Released: 2001
Jazz Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded on May 4 & 5, 2001 at La Fenêtre Studio, Paris.
Painting – Obeye Fall
Design – Laurent Groffe
Engineer [Assistant] – Sylvain Delafosse
Engineer, Edited By, Mastered By – Philippe Maté
Photography By – Thierry Trombert
Producer – Gérard Terrones
... Drake and Tsahar were in Paris as guests at a friend’s wedding. Turning the celebration into a busman’s holiday, the two subsequently went into a studio with veteran German bassist Peter Kowald and American trumpeter Hugh Ragin, who were specifically invited to take part, and produced OPEN SYSTEMS. It’s more than 72½ minutes spread among seven compositions that relate as much to hard core energy music of the late 1960s as the former disc does to spirituality...
... Take the saxman’s “ The Lizards in the Maze ”, one of four Tsahar compositions elaborated here. Beginning with a powerful Wilbur Ware-type string-punishing intro courtesy of Kowald, the freebop head soon gives way to a selection of solos. Even when he soars at the top of his range, Ragin still properly balances every note. In contrast, the tenorist’s tone sometimes slips into altissimo, but is always made up of staccato-inflected sound particles. Probably reminding Drake of his long-time employer Anderson, the percussionist usually meets Tsahar’s steaming thrusts with protracted tattoos, then follows the duet with a calm but heartfelt solo that starts off heavy on the snares and cymbals, but then turns proper attention to all parts of the kit.
Building from an early Ornette Coleman Quartet type of head, “ The Call ” offers more of the same, with Drake in his Ed Blackwell role providing a steady rat-tat-tat and Kowald as Charlie Haden providing the rhythmic bottom. On “ Lonely Woman ” -- a real Coleman line -- he authors a solo which has the different strings on his instrument dialoguing with themselves, and that let’s you know that his assumed identity here was just momentary role playing. Channeling Don Cherry, who spent some time in Paris himself, Ragin not only to creates whinnies and smears to follow Tsahar’s lead, but manages to expose a tiny, melodic passage of modulated beauty, built on short, sharp ascending horn bursts. Odd man out with his tenor tone obviously closer to John Coltrane’s or Ayler’s than Coleman’s alto conception, Tsahar spews out a well-nuanced solo, and after time spent chasing the brass man through the stratosphere, elaborates another motif that drags everyone back to the initial theme.
This drawing together seems to be the motif behind Tsahar’s “ Dream Weaverts ” (sic), dedicated to the newly married couple. Although Ragin, using a sort of funky burr sometimes sounds as if he’s playing Charles Mingus ’“ Weird Nightmare ” or Ayler’s “ The Truth Is Marching In ” -- and what are the brassman’s views on marriage? -- the bowed bass and bass clarinet mirror one another with irregular reverberating vibrations. Despite sections where each horn appears to be heading in a contrasting direction, they pull back to meld together before the end. Is there a wedlock partnership metaphor here somewhere?
Finally, Drake presages the pietistic passages he’d be singing three weeks hence in New York on “ Hearts Remembrance ”, where his measured Arabic (?) chanting is complimented by reverberating didgeridoo-like vocal sounds from Kowald and Ragin. Manipulating the buzz of the frame drum and adapting the bass clarinet ’ s natural resonance and some meshed, muted trumpet, the four allude to timeless, primitive music...
_ By KEN WAXMAN
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