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Hession / Wharf / Fell - Improvabilly

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Artist: Hession / Wharf / Fell

Album: Improvabilly

Label: Bruce's Fingers

Review date: Nov. 29, 2005

Bassist Simon H. Fell’s venerable Bruce’s Fingers has now repressed this Y2K slice of studio-recorded improv. While the long-standing trio’s roots are firmly in the earthily amoebic and carnivalesque squalls and hollers of post-Ayler free jazz, they also take the moment-form aesthetic to even further extremes, paralleling the Proteanisms of Fell’s larger compositions.

The increasingly manic ticks, erupting from pointalism into violence, that commence “Between the Clock and the Bed” prove to be a blueprint for the session as a whole. Moments of extraordinary and detailed contemplation are often juxtaposed, within seconds, with high-volume high-density clatter and buzz that somehow maintains sufficient kick without degenerating into chaos. These players’ joint vocabulary is encyclopedic but effortless; Charles Warf could channel Dolphy any time he felt the need, but most often history is only a jumping-off place for his multifarious bass clarinet and tenor sax excursions that dance and trill across the boundaries of contemporary improv. In perfect contrast, Fell’s well-documented pan-spectral arsenal of moans, slides and squeegees and Paul Hession’s percussion multi-timbralities provide a multi-linear Finnegans Wake dialectic to Warf’s more linear narrative. Fell has an uncanny ability to place each gesture strategically, spending much of his time in the highest register possible.

“The Angel of Hearth and Home,” the disc’s 18-minute closer, might be the discographically underrepresented trio’s definitive statement. The depth of detail and the discriminating use of silence and understatement that usher in the track are stunning, Hession’s playing especially poignant in its restraint – a cymbal stroke here, a bowed squeak there. His sonic pallet conjures shades of Rashied Ali (with Coltrane on “Venus”) and builds on Paul Lytton’s more recent work. Warf tongues airily, tiny multiphonic exhalations and staccatos – or are those Fell? Is he playing at all? In fact, at times, it’s difficult to tell who’s making each sound, often a sure testament to group unity. The build to a more conventional jazz texture is slow, precise, inexorable and deeply satisfying. This is a very fine offering from an under-recorded group.

By Marc Medwin

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