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John Edwards and Chris Corsano - Tsktsking

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Artist: John Edwards and Chris Corsano

Album: Tsktsking

Label: Dancing Wayang

Review date: Nov. 13, 2009

In improvised music, double bass and drums have a very different role to that in rock or jazz. Freed of the duties of “the rhythm section,” they are featured as much as any other instrument, without having to wait in line for their turn to solo. They are equal partners in the collective enterprise of music making. Bassists or drummers who have arrived at improv via rock or jazz often seem to relish the freedom they are afforded and become more extroverted. One need look no further than Han Bennink for an example.

Without comparing them to the madcap Bennink, bassist John Edwards and drummer Chris Corsano are both spectacular, extroverted explorers. In Corsano’s case, some of his drumming and percussion could be rather too idiosyncratic on occasions, meaning that for some he was not an immediate favourite and is becoming an acquired taste. Despite that, Edwards and Corsano are both first-choice sidemen who are greatly in demand. They first came together in 2006 in an Evan Parker trio, appearing live and being recorded on A Glancing Blow (Clean Feed, 2007). Straight away their styles seemed made for each other. Parker himself contributes some droll notes to accompany this album, in which he praises the duo, noting, “Their commitment and passion is audible in every note they play.”

Given the nature of their playing, the pairing of Edwards and Corsano could have been explosive, with them either trying to outdo one another or spurring each another on to ever greater excesses. In fact, the opposite is true here; they keep each other in check and produce music that is surprisingly subtle and melodic. Throughout the four tracks, equilibrium is established between the bass and drums; they find ways to play together without getting in each other’s way. Sometimes one is to the fore with the other in a supporting role; soon the roles reverse.

When playing together, they display the effect of their time together and produce ensemble passages in which their interplay and understanding is uncanny. At times they spontaneously lock into rhythmic grooves of which any well-established rhythm section would be proud. The greatest compliment that can be paid to this music is that it feels complete and satisfying by and of itself; the addition of another instrument would spoil its sense of symmetry and completeness.

By John Eyles

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