Barry Guy PLUS

Barry Guy PLUS

Barry Guy PLUS

AGUSTI FERNANDEZ piano
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: SOME OTHER PLACE Maya Recordings MCD0902


from the liner notes for Some other Place....

In a universe such as improvised music where, particularly in an ensemble, chance plays some kind of role, Agustí Fernández and Barry Guy did not by chance name this opus Some Other Place, paradoxical as it may seem at first sight. Much rather, it is a deliberate plight to give to this composition a title that brings up the notion of otherness, which is markedly present in both their careers. Many areas were scoured, at times under the command of one another or as third parties may dictate, and if all these worlds did have something in common then it would be this sense of quest, of adventure, of exploration of frontiers of musical forms, of eagerness to tauten a composition so as to distort it and, by extension, to transform it, to reach a threshold so remote from the starting point and yet implied from the outset. Never before did Agustí Fernández and Barry Guy choose to throw away the safety net as they do here, opening a sincere dialogue that subsumes so many years of shared musical experiments, leading a reflection on a form of art that — due to its ephemeral nature — is unrepeatable.
(Ferran Esteve, Barcelona)

Some other Place

....This is one of those recordings that draws listeners close and keeps their attention focused. Their exchanges are so quick and so rich that, at slightly less than hour, the CD has the perfect duration of a concert set, and none of the pieces overstays its welcome, the longest being “Dark Energy” at less than nine minutes. Guy and Fernández bask into the sound and resonances of their instruments, and let the listener join in, be it the slightly Monkian distillation of “How To Go Into A Room If You're Already In” or the telluric vibrations of “Rosette” and “Crab Nebula”: attention to detail does not necessarily mean excessive caution, and several tracks feature all-out explorations, making the contrast with the more restrained pieces more effective.

“Blueshift”, an elegiac piece dedicated by Guy to his musician wife Maya Homburger, is certainly one of the high points of the album. We hear them state the theme with the piano improvising around it, and then the roles are reversed, with an intense, intimate dialogue of building tension: arguably the finest realization of what Bill Evans and Scott La Faro were working on. The sound is glorious. Listen to the clarity of Guy's altissimo register, and then to the perfectly pitched fat low notes of the bass expanding in space like drops of ink in water. I am adding this track to the short playlist that I use for the uninitiated asking me for a compilation of this weird music I listen to. If you don't find anything to like here, maybe this area of music is not for you and you should pick up stamp collecting or something. By any standard a great record.
(Francesco Martinelli)


Pianist Agusti Fernandez and bassist Barry Guy are two great solo improvising musicians that have a rare talent to cooperate in music making, combining their talents for an ever greater sound. So the question is, why haven't they recorded a duet until now?
Spaniard Fernandez is an original voice, perhaps best described as the love child of the disparate styles of Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett. That said, he can shred (if that is possible) the piano and alternately produce wrenching passages that force an emotional pause. His collaborations in duo have been, perhaps his finest moments. Highlights include Critical Mass (PSI Records, 2005), with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and A Silent Dance (Incus Records, 2009), with guitarist Derek Bailey. He has also recorded duos with saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Marilyn Crispell, and bassists William Parker and Peter Kowald.
While Guy is well known for his large ensemble work as organizer of the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra and the Barry Guy Orchestra, he excels in the solo setting and in small group settings. Like Fernandez, his duos deserve special attention. Exceptional music has also been recorded with Gustafsson on Frogging (Maya, 1997), and with Parker on Obliquities (Maya, 1994).
The two have previously released Aurora (Maya, 2006), with Ramon Lopez, and Topos (Maya, 2007) with Parker and drummer Paul Lytton, and Fernandez played on the Barry Guy New Orchestra session, Oort-Entropy (Intakt, 2005).
This duo disc opens with confident, reverberating notes from both players, feeling like flat stones tossed onto a pond—each skipping, all the while making tiny reverberations on the water. The pair then delves into a little swing before hammering squared notes into disjointed round boxes. The contrasting stillness, broken by the aural ferocity is often repeated, as the pair draws from an ugly beauty and beautiful ugliness to great effect. When they break from their struggles, their liaison produces elegance. Guy's "Blueshift (for M.H.)" presents an atmospheric ballad of ineffable beauty; the lingering notes are prayers and meditations, contrasted with the immediacy and electricity of "Boomerang Nebula" and "Rosette," with its bowed notes and piano pummeling designed to unsettle any space.
The duo's use of tension and release, be it in the outward improvisation or more gentle compositions, reveal two masters of modern music.
(Mark Corroto)

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Barry Guy PLUS

PETER EVANS trumpet
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: SYLLOGISTIC MOMENTS, Maya Recordings MCD1802

SYLLOGISTIC MOMENTS

(deductive reasoning) Syllogism : a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed propositions.

Peter Evans and I have occasionally met in larger ensembles for special projects. This particular concert in Uster (Switzerland) within the PAM festival on 18. November 2016, allowed us to delve into the minutiae of duo performance where intense listening and decoding of intentions kept our minds and bodies in high alert. This occasion had us playing somewhat athletically, pushing and pulling ideas around, and to be honest, we both felt exhausted after the concert but also exhilarated. The joys of improvisation I guess…. and high speed communication.

Despite the active interchange, there are slow moments of introspection to calm the soul, where unusual colours emerge - resonances perhaps of Robert Lax’s concrete poems (they gave us the idea for the titles) that avoid metaphor and imagery - just the face value which each listener is free to ruminate upon. The colour titles are suggestive of stepping stones aiding contemplation – or leading us to the gym !
(from the liner notes by Barry Guy)

Review by John Sharpe

From the first few seconds of the opening "Red Green" onwards, this live recording from trumpeter Peter Evans and bassist Barry Guy is a feat of death defying bravura. The two are among the most utterly distinctive practitioners on their instruments and they create a fast evolving kaleidoscope of preposterous sounds. Evans named his record label More Is More and that credo is amply reflected in the density of ideas which scroll past in swift succession. Both go way beyond their instruments' supposed capabilities, though such virtuosity is worn lightly, and indeed there is an almost playful feel to their high velocity exchanges.

Over a lengthy career, Guy has ranged from classical Early Music ensembles to composition at the interface of contemporary new music, jazz and improvisation for the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the Barry Guy New Orchestra, but it is his prowess as an improviser which is on display here. For his part Evans has pitted himself against an ever-widening swathe of collaborators in both North America and Europe, while at the same time affectionately dismantling the jazz tradition with his own groups and formerly as part of Mostly Other People Do the Killing. As such, the beginning of "Red Black" where he moves from a spluttered amalgam of trumpet and voice to subterranean growls with simultaneous upper register squeals gives just the merest hint of his scope.
Striking blends of timbre prove commonplace, as when Evans' percussive plosives are matched by Guy's jittery col legno tapping on "Green White," and then later in the same cut when the bassist's bowed whistle interweaves with the trumpeter's falsetto whinnies. But such momentary convergences are just the starting point for further interplay as they spin off at rapidly diverging tangents. Contrasts abound too, as at the start of "White Red" where Evans cycles through explosive snorts, buzzing sustains and steam locomotive puffing in opposition to Guy's resonant slurs. There are reflective moments too amid the blur, exemplified by the collision of vocal overtones and harmonics which leads to one of the most consonant passages on the disc later in "Red Black."

While the titles and cover might contain echoes of Mark Rothko's monumental canvases, the realization is more evocative of the action paintings of Jackson Pollock. The two musicians share characteristics such as the constant switches between extremes, the use of extended techniques, the capacity for split second adjustments in trajectory and the depth of listening and speed of response. But the most important commonality is the sheer musicality with which they deploy the sounds. Astonishing.
(John Sharpe)

Review by Colin Green

This is a performance by Guy and Evans from Uster, Switzerland at the PAM-Festival in November 2016. As to the title, the notes provide the following definition of a syllogism – “a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed propositions.”, for example: all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal. The analogy is that the various moments which make up each piece are entailed by the dispositions of the two players at that stage of the performance. Aristotelian logic is abandoned beyond the album title however, and each track is named after a colour pairing, according to Guy, neutral in not evoking metaphor or imagery beyond the listener’s own imagination. (I think he missed a trick here and should really have named each of the pieces using the mnemonic terms given to the different forms of syllogism by medieval logicians: “Barbara”, “Cesare”, etc.)

More tellingly, Guy mentions the athletic nature of the improvisations, the musicians delving into minutiae with intense listening and decoding of intentions, keeping their minds and bodies in high alert. Certainly, anyone who’s seen Guy play will appreciate the visceral engagement with his instrument, generating fizzing textures and dizzying shifts like a tornado animating and absorbing all around it. His playing is so heavily loaded with tangled complexity that you can feel the sheer thrill of extremity, a near physiological affect. Yet behind this lies an acute intelligence – studied but spontaneous, rarefied but grounded in the materiality of instrumental texture – a musician deeply versed in a wide repertoire with a firm understanding of the nuances of string sonority and how to thoroughly integrate the diverse idioms which attract him. Likewise, with Evans who’s an equally commanding presence employing a virtuosic range of trumpet techniques that have an immediate, sensual impact.

The result is a muscular, highly volatile duo which is almost permanently unstable, operating not so much in dialogue as through an extended series of galvanic reactions and endlessly changeable configurations. The exploratory aims of such music-making inevitably challenge our notions of congruence, the way things fit together, like examining the mechanism of a watch for anyone other than a watchmaker. Interest is maintained and rewarded not just through recognisable locutions and areas of affinity – bright-toned fanfares, resonant bowed double stops, microtonal glazes – but because there are hyper-speed exchanges and compressed layers impossible to parse or pin-down. During ‘Green White’ the instruments sneak and dance about each other, jerky and graceful like a pair of wobbly tightrope walkers. Equilibrium is eventually reached in Evans’ subdued trumpet coda, one of several quiescent passages amid the crackling currents. ‘Red Green’ switches between recurring spurts of energy and static tension, and ‘Red Grey’ concludes with waves of saturated trumpet and meaty, arco chords.

One of the advantages of musical mazes, with no obvious entrance or exit points, is that many paths are available. ‘White Red’ flows with highs and lows, divergences and little surprises, and in the final piece, ‘Grey Blue’, the pair scuttle in criss-crossing trajectories, wayward yet directed according to some inner logic.
(Colin Green)

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Barry Guy PLUS

KEN VANDERMARK saxophone / clarinet
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: OCCASIONAL POEMS NOTTWO MW931-2 (2 CDs)


For British bassist Barry Guy the concert that produced this fine double disc package occurred at the end of a four day intensive residency in Krakow culminating in the premier of an ambitious new work by his Blue Shroud Band. While for Chicago reedman Ken Vandermark, the event was the final episode in two months on the road. But whether relief or exhaustion were the dominant feelings, neither resulted in any lowering of standards or resting on laurels. Occasional Poems captures in unvarnished fidelity both sets in their entirety from the storied Alchemia club before a packed and enthusiastic audience.

Even at 67 years of age, Guy's trademark hyperkinetic style shows no sign of slowing. His lightning switches between registers, and between bowing, plucking and an array of implements to variously interrogate and cajole novel textures from the bass, remain very much in evidence. Such speed of thought is also mirrored in his responsiveness to Vandermark's ever-changing amalgam of percussiveness, lyricism, timbral investigation, and repetition, which tangentially evoke a range of genres amid an unfettered outpouring.

Pairings with reedmen have proven a familiar format for Guy over the years, as recordings with Torben Snekkestad, Mats Gustafsson, Liudas Mockunas and of course Evan Parker attest. But it's a less common scenario for Vandermark, and in fact this concert represents the first time just the two of them have taken to the stage. Nonetheless the album documents a very strong meeting of minds. Or should that be a meeting of very strong minds? The poems on this particular evening - seven duets and two soliloquies, all conjured spontaneously from the air - are bursting with ideas. They each pay close attention to what the other is doing and largely eschew oppositional strategies. And the outcome is all the more engaging as a result. In fact the opening "Nature is a Wolf" belts out of the gate in a such a relentless garrulous dash that even the listener is left gasping for air. The same maniacal energy manifests on "Light Cuts Shadow" where Vandermark shifts to clarinet for a spacey colloquy interrupted by sudden crescendos which gradually merge into another concentrated torrent.

Another highlight comes at the start of the second set on "States of Being" when Guy wields a brush, more like a drummer than a bassist, to accompany Vandermark's jagged swirling clarinet. It seems Vandermark's proclivity for insistent reiteration rubs off on Guy who is more rhythmic than usual throughout, but especially in "I Will Sing You of the Moments," a jerky exchange of tenor saxophone plosives and taut string thwacks.

Only rarely does one man overtly take the lead, but that's what happens in the last third of the otherwise turbulent "Riding the Air" where Guy initiates an intricately fingered bass coda against which Vandermark layers soothing sustained clarinet tones. But whatever the gambit, the music evolves in a bravura display of quick reflexes and inspiration.
(John Sharpe in All About Jazz)


Review by Colin Green

In November 2008, Ken Vandermark (reeds), Barry Guy (double bass) and Mark Sanders (drums) undertook a short tour of England. Two of the gigs, from Birmingham and Leeds, appeared on Fox Fire (Maya Recordings, 2009), one of Vandermark’s most impressive recordings where he rises to the challenge of playing with Guy and the new areas into which this pushed him.

Guy and Vandermark played again six years later in November 2014 at the Alchemia Club in Kraków during the ninth Autumn Jazz Festival, their first time as a duo. Guy was at the end of a week-long residency with his Blue Shroud band and Vandermark (who has a work ethic that puts the rest of us to shame) had agreed to the date at the end of over two months on the road, exhausted and travelling to the sound check direct from the airport. And yet, as is often the case with impromptu meetings in trying circumstances, as Vandermark says, “something special happened”.

On this album, we have nine of the pieces they performed over two sets. The titles have been provided by Guy, inspired by the poet Robert Lax, whose poems have distinctive layouts and make use of the repetition and permutation of a small body of words. According to Guy, “his singular focus on the world around his chosen space is indicative of the way improvisers work – gathering, analysing, inventing and trading ideas in the moments that we are allowed to express our art.” A fair general description of much of what’s going on with he and Vandermark, but works of abstract theatre that takes place in a rarefied realm, the nuances of which have no precise descriptive equivalent.

With Guy, one gets not just the standard dimensions – the melodic (horizontal) and chordal (vertical) – but the opening up of a third dimension in which shapes move and merge in a continual state of flux. The brilliant intensity of his playing has been likened to the flow of molten lava, the kind of thing that prompted Cecil Taylor to observe, “If I played bass I’d play the way you play”. Guy’s distinctive style is generated from the sonorities of his instrument and idiosyncratic actions (plucked, bowed, scraped, sometimes all three together) and the various treatments and devices he uses, resulting in a very personal vocabulary. But it’s also a language so rich – a sound world that has an almost visible texture, full of ridges, offshoots, nooks and crannies – that other musicians can’t fail but to be inspired. It probably helps not to think too much, and simply respond on a visceral level: exactly the condition of the weary Vandermark. Throughout, one feels the thrill of their having absolutely no idea where they’re going to end up.

At the most general level, these duos explore convergences and conflicts between two voices: communicative and non-communicative, sympathetic and contrasting. Right from the bell, they both go for it. ‘Nature is a Wolf’ is dominated by Guy’s repeated sliding chord, like an incessant cry, and Vandermark’s gnarled, hyper-compressed line. As the titles suggest ‘Light cuts Shadow’ and the ensuing ‘Shadow cuts Light’ can be seen as plays on positive and negative space, contrasting sides of the same thing. In the first, both instruments match each other in mood and texture as if mirroring different aspects of the same material: long, high notes, slithered bowing against rapid scales and leaps on the clarinet, ostinato figures locking them together, even a brief folksy episode. In the second piece the complimentary contrasts are this time in register, long resonant notes on the bass clarinet against dense spicatto and pizzicato on the bass. Roles are then reversed when Vandermark switches to the top end of his range and Guy descends to the lower. The remainder of the piece alternates between these two areas, with contrasting levels of energy. ‘I will Sing to You of The Moments’ is an exercise in perpetual motion, repeated patterns never quite symmetric, moving in and out of alignment and becoming more elaborate as the piece progresses.

There are times however, when Guy and Vandermark seem engaged in two distinct trains of thought, juxtaposed rather than in dialogue. On ‘States of Being’ which opens the second set, they start in the same place but rapidly move in different directions, wrapped in the virtuosic expansion of their own material, side by side, eventually acknowledging the presence of the other and returning to common ground, and finishing with a unison flourish.

Not only do relations change, so do characters and locations. Vandermark can move at will between different provinces in the landscape of free jazz, reflecting his wide-ranging interests, musical and otherwise. This means he doesn’t have a style so much as a series of self-imposed personae. He experiments, not with inclusiveness – trying to cover as much ground as possible – but by moderation, narrowing the range of ideas, colours and textures for each improvisation, the better to explore his chosen region, adjusting focus as he moves from one piece to the next. Vandermark is aware of the importance of boundaries. On ‘Pan Metron Ariston [Every Good Thing In Measure]’ (an old Greek saying) for tenor alone, he limits himself to a blues tune as the basis for a study in split notes, distortion and overtones, contrasted with staccato tonguing and key clatter, sounding a little like a combination of Mats Gustafsson and Peter Brötzmann, (with whom he’s played in the trio Sonore). In “Riding the Air’ there’s a continuous line of smeared gestures and phrases on bass clarinet, mainly in the lower registers, as if in mimicry of Guy’s bass which responds in like kind, resulting in mutual imitations. Broken off by Guy’s change of pace and a solemn plucked tune, Vandermark moves back providing gentle sustained notes in accompaniment as Guy’s melody and subtle harmonics sing with ever greater eloquence.

‘Black, White, Red, Blue’ is a bass solo, beginning with a simple succession of plucked glissandi notes which alternate with passages employing an ever increasing range of techniques and devices, below the bridge up to bouncing sticks threaded through the strings. Each time the glissandi notes return they become a richer melody, and as the two textural areas switch their opposition increases, perhaps reflected in the title – pairings of tonal opposites and complimentary colours.

The encore is ‘Curving of the Wave’, a series of quick-fire bursts and exchanges between tenor and bass suggesting that both players had been reinvigorated by their meeting.
(Colin Green)


St. Johann in Tirol Konzert

Barry Guy steht im Anschluss daran gleich wieder auf der Bühne, diesmal in völlig freihändiger Kommunikation mit dem universellen Saxofonisten und Klarinettisten Ken Vandermark. Glühende Zwiegespräche entstehen, einer Kerze gleichend, die an beiden Enden brennt. Das immense Vokabular beider friedlichen Kontrahenten erlaubt ein Klangspektrum, das durch die zeitweilige, Beckett'sche Verspieltheit Guys noch zusätzliche Impulse erfährt. Und allein das in mehrerlei Hinsicht halsbrecherische Klarinettenspiel Vandermarks sucht im Kontext der improvisierten wie der komponierten Musik ohnedies seinesgleichen.
(Freistil Magazin)

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Barry Guy PLUS

JOËLLE LÉANDRE double bass
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: BLUE HORIZON Duo a.o. Listen Foundation FSR07/2018 (3 CD Box)

....Symbolically and kinetically as well the music world has been waiting for a duo recording from Léandre and Guy and the concert lives up to all expectations.
Curiously, over the years, along with her other projects ranging from large ensembles to solos, the French bassist has recorded even more double bass duos than Guy, partnering, among others, Kowald, Phillips and William Parker. More overtly flamboyant and stagey in performance than Guy, no more than eight minutes of shakes and shuffles pass between the two bassists than Léandre is verbally yelping, panting, shouting and gurgling, animating the program with audacity. With her voice modulating through subterranean bellows, alto-pitched mumbles and bel-canto blares, at points Guy is cast in the role of diva accompanist as well as a droll partner. Yet not all the instrumental wizardry is his alone and while they both earn their share of laughs, they never let caricature stand in the way of craft. Fluid, guitar-like runs, propelled with slurred fingering are aggressively showcased by both along with spiccato bow movements that stretch from the instruments’ top to bottom extremities. String role players, each can mimic the sound of a viola, a cello, or a koto, while never letting go of the chromatic continuum that keeps the music moving. The final minutes and coda bring emphasis from the harmonized basses that could be attributed to notated or soundtrack sounds in turn. The climax however occurs when darkened tinctures are put aside for the full color spectrum that can be squeezed from nine strings vibrating at the same time. Musically, atonality and animation mix with audacity leading to admiration.
The inspiration, dexterity and craft brought to the Léandre-Guy duos could be interpolated to describe the improvisations on either of the other night’s performances. That is what makes this CD a profound example of Guy’s art and a top-flight listening experience.
(Ken Waxman , from the liner notes for the Blue Horizon CD set)

Review by Colin Green

The final concert was a set of duo improvisations with fellow bassist, Joëlle Léandre. Although the pair had played as part of a bass quartet in Le Mans back in the early 80s, and both feature on Sebastian Gramss’ bass-fest, Thinking Of… (recorded at separate locations) this was the first time they’d performed as a duo; a welcome event given their previous partnerships with other great bassists, Peter Kowald, Barre Phillips and William Parker. The feeling of something belated is reflected in the track titles.

These are two double bassists with a strong classical background, who use the bow extensively, and each has developed their own, almost immediately identifiable morphology. Their improvisations are rooted in what might be considered the modernist fascination with “truth to materials”, as typified in the sculpture of Constantin Brâncuși, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, bringing out the inherent properties of the materials they worked – polished bronze, stone that is hard and smooth, the pristine purity of marble, soft organic wood. In a musical context this manifests itself as an appreciation for the fundamentals of sound and its physical production – a function of brain and body – textures that spring from the very nature of the bass and how it can be manipulated, though paradoxically the results can sound completely new, startling contrasts that highlight idiomatic sonorities yet act as defeats of our expectations. They play what could only be achieved on their instrument while often sounding nothing like it.

With Léandre (left side) and Guy (right) they dive headlong into the opening ‘About Time Too’ with vigorous virtuosity. Timbre inspires form as the pair scrape and rattle, snap and scuffle, giving shape to something latent so that making becomes mimetic of the processes of understanding itself. They radiate energy in a welter of bowed resonance and sizzling strings, gradually revealing finer nuances and gradations. Spurred on by Léandre’s vocal contributions textures thicken and thin, melodic bubbles rise to the surface and the piece builds to a conclusion in ocean waves of rosiny chords.

There’s also indeterminacy, a consequence of the inherent mutability of sound: ephemeral, unstable and subject to myriad inflections, endlessly malleable. Léandre and Guy exploit this over 22 minutes in ‘High Time’ with astonishing variety in a process of mutual interrogation and acute responses – exchanging, prompting and challenging one another. As Guy has said, the act of creating music on the spot is emotionally thrilling as well as intellectually satisfying. The pair slip from one zone to another with full-toned thickets of plucked notes, circulating percussive patterns, overlapping glissandi chords falling like leaves in a forest. There are shifts in intensity and focus, fine-grained then majestic, trenchant followed by tender. We hear colliding vectors of serrated edges played below the bridge set against glassy harmonics, and an almost infinite range of surface topologies. They fade out with spiccato taps, flutterings and rustles.

The final track, an encore, finds their basses intertwined, slowly descending to the lowest registers, followed by silence and enthusiastic applause. The title of this last piece, ‘No Matter Where Never Before’, is taken from one of Samuel Beckett’s late poems, encapsulating the conjoined sense of freshness and familiarity which improvisation can provide and how, through our fund of collective memories, time does not erode but renews:
go where never before
no sooner there than there always
no matter where never before
no sooner there than there always
(Colin Green)

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Barry Guy PLUS

RAMON LOPEZ percussion
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: SIDEREUS NUNCIUS, The Starry Messenger Maya Recordings MCD1801

SIDEREUS NUNCIUS - The Starry Messenger

It was at Ramón’s suggestion that we record as a duo in the downtime of another studio session, and perhaps it was his constellation of drums and cymbals that prompted the thought of a metaphorical planetary system. So SIDEREUS NUNCIUS The Starry Messenger the title of Galileo Galilei’s short astronomical treatise published in early 1610, did not necessarily stretch the imagination unduly - there it was in front of me !

Galilei’s telescopic observations of the moon and other celestial bodies for the first time illuminated details of planets near and far in our solar system. In a not dissimilar way, the studio microphones act like a telescope, bringing details of our own musical cosmos into sharp definition, illuminating the sometimes craggy terrain of our deliberations, but also observing the more spacious musical topography.
(Barry Guy)

Review by Colin Green

Recorded at López’ suggestion during the downtime of a studio session in Paris in November 2017, the album is named after Galileo Galilei’s astronomical treatise (1610). According to Guy, Lopez’ drums and cymbals prompted thoughts of a metaphorical planetary system, with the studio microphones acting like a telescope, “bringing details of our own musical cosmos into sharp definition, illuminating the sometimes craggy terrain of our deliberations, but also observing the more spacious musical topography”. The reference to scale is significant; what counts as large or small, surface or detail being largely dependent on perspective and context. These thirteen relatively brief episodes reveal a musical universe contracting in size and expanding in particularity: studies in microscopic activity rendered macroscopic where any element, however small, can become central.

The duo charts this space in a variety of forms. López’ percussion consists primarily of cymbal washes, deep pulses, snare rolls and a ticking hi-hat, a measured backdrop as Guy picks and saws his way into Lilliputian sound worlds, full of refined textures and subtle gradations. In ‘Gravitation’ his bass focuses on tiny scrapes, bounces and shivers, rising above throbbing drums then dragged down again. ‘Particle Waves’ opens out a knotty, modulated landscape whereas ‘Time Loop’ consists of minuscule movements, barely articulated twinges, thrums and taps. ‘Sigma Orionis’ moves from frosty bowed harmonics to increasingly elaborate pizzicato arabesques and ‘Sundrum’ is a succession of slow-motion shockwaves initiated by López’ percussive shudders, as if offering an exploded view, paused and rotated as a three-dimensional structure. By way of contrast, in the following ‘Expansion’ Guy skims and flickers creating a stream of diaphanous vapour. ‘Occam’s Razor’ – the medieval philosopher’s famous maxim of ontological parsimony, that entities should not be multiplied without necessity – is suitably pared-down to essentials, with plucked arpeggiated chords spread across different registers, accompanied by simple brushes. ‘Extraterrestrial’ stands out as a meditative interlude, its drifting Baroque harmonies referencing another of Guy’s musical passions.
(Colin Green)

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Barry Guy PLUS

TORBEN SNEKKESTAD saxophone / reed trumpet
BARRY GUY double bass

CD: SLIP SLIDE AND COLLIDE MAYA Recordings MCD1401


This latest release on Maya Recordings documents a new
duo collaboration of Barry Guy together with the exceptional
Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad.
At convergent boundaries, tectonic plates collide with each other, sometimes slowly, other times giving way suddenly with huge energy being expended. The various plates that encompass this planet either get subducted by being bent and pulled under the crust, or they collide and fold the rock at the boundary creating mountains. Whatever way the plates move, there is an end result only for a moment as the forces adjust.
There are indeed certain moments when the individual contributions by the two players are modified by collision - and sonic adjustments are made when one voice slips and slides around the other. This all happens in the blink of an eye compared to the millions of years that the earth adjusts its crust.
We chose the title “Slip Slide and Collide” as a playful affiliation, but nevertheless there is indeed a special moment when two powerful players negotiate their musical boundaries and present us with islands of creativity and resolution.
(from the liner notes by Maya Homburger)


Slip, Slide and Collide

By Ken Waxman

Famous for his compositions and leadership of large ensembles, British bassist Barry Guy is also a veteran small group participant. This notable CD is the most recent example of this skill, but this time his playing partner is one of the most recent members of the Barry Guy New Orchestra, Norwegian saxophonist Torben Snekkestad.
Copenhagen-based Snekkestad, who teaches classical saxophone, works in chamber music, rock, folk music and jazz. Someone who plays soprano and tenor saxophones plus reed-trumpet, he’s particularly concerned with the creation of multiphonics. Throughout Slip, Slide and Collide’s 13 tracks that ability is demonstrated superbly but judiciously.
Guy whose reed duo partners have included Mats Gustafsson and Liudas Mockunas, has for many decades been closely affiliated with Evan Parker, who redefined the idea of multiphonic saxophone invention. Although Snekkestad utilizes common Parker tropes such as circular breathing and irregular vibrations, he has many of his own ideas. Supportive, as well as proactive, the bassist’s skill allows him to construct ambitious string sleight-of-hands, while simultaneously anchoring the tracks with tough strums.
Snekkestad’s unique concept is apparent as early as “Utsira”, the first track. Vibrating timbres resembling those of a ram’s horn create a feeling of frigid loneliness embellished by Guy’s sharp string clanks. The reedman’s hunting-horn-like cadenzas are put to good use on “Achill”, as his whispery tone adds unambiguous buoyancy to Guy’s muscular chording, with the tune climaxing with a sonic heat exchange. Nonetheless, Snekkestad’s characteristic tonal sweetness prevents even his shrillest circular breathing to replicate Parker’s harsher variations. The Norwegian’s folkloric attributes plus Guy’s expertise in early music also create a particular niche. During “Silda” and “Ana” for instance, Snekkestad’s vibrating split tones are filtered to create a rustic melody, just as Guy’s below-the-bridge string strokes resemble mandolin plucks or metallophone peals. At times this could be a recorder-and-lute duet.
More consistently though whizzing reed bites from Snekkestad and stacked tremolo pumps from Guy confirm that this is no exercise in folk-improv. Tracks such as “Fedje” and “Cruit” demonstrate the duo’s free music orientation. A chromatic line is preserved on the former as Snekkestad’s tongue slurps and slaps prompt Guy to figuratively dig into the bass wood for rhythmic direction. The second tune takes previously divided tremolo dissonance from reed overblowing plus spiccato string bounces and unites them into an exhilarating crescendo of sweeps and snorts.
While the two may sometimes slip and slide around each others’ contributions, generally their musical thoughts coalesce rather than collide.
Tracks: Utsira; Skeam; Ombo; Gurumna; Silda; Achill; Anda; Cruit; Lopra; Gola; Fedje; Scattery; Senja
Personnel: Torben Snekkestad: soprano and tenor saxophones; reed-trumpet; Barry Guy: bass
—For The New York City Jazz Record November 20


Slip Slide and Collide
(2014, Maya Recordings MCD 1401)

Der norwegische Saxofonist Torben Snekkestad gehört lose zum Kopenhagener Kollektiv ILK, wo er hin und wieder in unterschiedlichen, stets gleichermaßen hörenswerten Ensembles —Spring, The Living Room et al.— in Erscheinung tritt. Sein ambitioniertes Duo mit Barry Guy erscheint jedoch auf dem Label Maya Recordings, das die britische Basslegende mit seiner Frau, der schweizerischen Barockviolinistin Maya Homburger, ins Leben rief. Wobei der Titel »Slip Slide and Collide« wie eine Fortsetzung des ILK-Albums »Slide« von Snekkestads Quartett Spring anmutet.

Und das ist ganz passend. Auch wenn hier keine Vorlagen fremder Komponisten den Anstoß gaben, sondern eine vollkommen freie Kollaboration in Form von 13 zumeist intimen Zwiegesprächen auf Platte gebannt wurde, das risikoreiche Grenzgängertum, selbst im ohnehin freigeistigen Free Jazz, verbindet die beiden Alben auf faszinierende Weise. Als Stücke oder Songs mag man diese assoziationreiche Jazz-Poesie kaum bezeichnen; eher schon loten Snekkestad und Guy in Form von Studien die Auflösung von Liedform und Instrumenten aus. Um hier Melodien oder rhythmische Strukturen zu ertasten, muss man in diesem Genre fortgeschrittene/r Hörer/in sein. Ansonsten kann man wunderbar die Fantasie anregen lassen von den Sounds, die mal an Naturgeräusche, mal an Türknarren erinnern. Wie ja bereits das englische Wort »Slide« eine Vielzahl von Bildern auszulösen vermag. (ijb)

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Barry Guy PLUS

PAUL PLIMLEY Piano
BARRY GUY Double bass

CD: SENSOLOGY Maya Recordings MCD9701
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVWKtXDvr04

"... What pianist Paul Plimley and Barry Guy share is an approach to improvisation that is imbued with a vigourous physicality. Both are free, abstract players, but it is an abstraction formed as much by an immersion in the joyous, energetic physical act of exploring and extending their instrument as it is by a keen sense of the form and shape of free improvisation. This live duet meeting captures the two players at the top of their form. Guy seems to shine in almost any context, and here he exhibits his mastery at placing the bass on equal footing in improvisational settings. Aside from his well-documented bristling intensity and inventiveness on the bass, Guy excels at being a careful and thoughtful listener. One minute he is guiding the improvisations with a dark, beautiful arco line, and the next he is hammering percussive salvos against Plimley's resounding thunder ..."
(Michael Rosenstein)

Paul Plimley is a remarkable pianist who can play with as much power as any free player can muster (yes, even as much as Cecil Taylor, whom he echoes here on occasion – although I don't think Plimley has played the tremendous marathons of energy that are Taylor's specialty), as well as with surpassing delicacy and grace (for example, on Joe McPhee's 1995 Sweet Freedom, Now What? with frequent partner on bass Lisle Ellis). Barry Guy, of course, is the consummate bassist, the linchpin of Parker/Guy/Lytton and the majordomo of the London Jazz Composer's Orchestra. Sensology, their collaboration of improvisations, is a marvelous recording.

The very first track, "This is not much less than flat," demonstrates the range of both players. Plimley lingers long in Taylorville, but returns to a series of light block chords; Guy plays his bass as if it is a drum, a flute-anything the occasion calls for. On Short steps until it finally dawned, Plimley sets up some shimmering figures for Barry's bow. Rolling agreement is a feature for Guy's scrapings on a setting of gruff low tones from Plimley.

A few brief excursions set up the title track, which is the centerpiece and longest track on the disc. Skittering figures create a field of tactile energy; Guy demonstrates his razor-like mastery with the bow. Plimley is everywhere: nods to Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Stravinsky, whatsodam. This pair is thoroughly in sync with each other, and constantly creates inventive and ear-catching effects.

Other tracks deserve special mention: What to do, featuring a convincingly quizzical Plimley; the aloof cool of Jazz for now and never more, and the stinging Joyous absence of disco. But this album is full of first-rate free improvisations by two masters, and is thus highly recommended.
(Robert Spencer)

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Barry Guy PLUS

MAHMOUD TURKMANI guitar/oud
BARRY GUY double bass/chamber bass

CD: FAYKA ENJ-9447 2


....He found his ideal partner in Barry Guy, doubtlessly one of the most innovative European bassists and composers who is an active force in new chamber and orchestra music as well as improvised music and jazz and the founder of the phenomenal London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Radiating dazzling beauty and intensity, Turkmani's music sometimes rises to heavy rhythmic drive and violent outbursts in which the guitar or oud serves as a percussion instrument.

Der Komponist, Gitarrist und Oud-Virtuose Mahmoud Turkmani sucht seine Lebensgeschichte und künstlerischen Ziele in eine adäquate musikalische Form zu bringen. Auf seiner zweiten CD, «Fayka», schafft der in der Schweiz lebende Libanese gemeinsam mit dem Bassisten Barry Guy und dem Perkussionisten Keyvan Chemirani eine kompromisslose Musik, die vor allem in ihrer Spontaneität und Dringlichkeit überzeugt.

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