AGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ 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.
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.