Syllogistic Moments

Syllogistic Moments

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Peter Evans – trumpet
Barry Guy – double bass

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

I like the concept of passing on reasoned ideas to a subsequent event, so that as the argument progresses a general conclusion may result.

So in this music, various proposals are worked on by the two protagonists slowly changing the overall colouration but nevertheless tied together working to present a unified picture.

With the choice of titles we acknowledge the great poet Robert Lax. His concrete poems utilising colours suggested a titling of each piece on the album, taking us on a journey where each track in a way sows the seed for the next. So, we have a colour (music) spectrum that constantly progresses.

Peter 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 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!

Barry Guy

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The sole acoustic set is Syllogistic Moments. It comes from the 2016 PAM Festival in Uster, Switzerland and pairs Evans with Englishman Barry Guy, who has been doing for the bass for 50 years what Evans has been doing for the trumpet for 15. The two achieve levels and rates of interactive invention rarely heard, foreshadowing and extending one another’s lines. There are moments in “Green White” in which Evans literally changes voice every second or two, including weird cartoon-like mumbles and drainpipe multiphonics. In “White Red” Guy manages to play counterpoint to himself while Evans does a convincing imitation of a snare drum. There are points in the same improvisation when muted trumpet and arco bass seem to pass through one another’s identities. The quality of the work surmounts the idea of dialogue; Evans and Guy together achieve a richness of sound and invention that is almost orchestral, as in a prayer- like passage in “Red Black”.
(Stuart Broomer, New York City Jazz Record)

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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Creating unconstrained real-time improvisations from three valves and four strings on five tracks are two experienced players who turn singular outbursts into a conglomerate of assorted textures and tones on this CD. So attuned are American trumpeter Peter Evans and British bassist Barry Guy to the art and science of in-the-moment interactions, that the lack of other instruments isn’t noticed. Guy of course has been involved in this sort of free-form give and take since the 1960s, especially in his own large and small ensembles and groups with the likes of Evan Parker. Comparatively younger, Evan has in the past decade racked up credentials and affiliations with many of the major improvisers in the US and Europe, including Parker and Guy.
Rapid but systematic, Evans and Guy intuit the most logical yet creative way to expand on a duet from the beginning of “Red Green”, the first tune, as snarling echoes from the trumpet’s body tube are met by forceful string stops. They amplify this strategy throughout the disc. Although every sort of timbre-stretch and multiphonic expansion is taken to its logical extreme throughout, the most notable instance of their teamwork is on “Green White” and “White Red”, nearly 13 minute each in which the two can stretch their ideas for maximum impact.

On the first tune, embouchure and string stretching patterns almost duplicate one another’s textures as staccato tongue flutters and aviary-like double bass friction slither, curve and swerve through the narrative at the same time. Eventually the trumpeter goes on to express bravado intonation by physically deconstructing the horn into its individual parts as he solos. The resulting agitated twitters, yelps and vibrations are backed calmly by Guy with a combination of double stops and calculated strums until both complete the same thought. Fuzzy mid-register gusts from Evans provide the melody as sharp bass sweeps and pops cement the groove. Cerebral explorations featuring corkscrew trills and plunger drops from Evans plus nuanced string emphasis from Guy dominate the introduction to “White Red” until an unexpected velocity shift in track development brings blazingly swift bow sweeps plus split tone brass yelps to the forefront. The subsequent breathtaking riposte and reply dialogue encompasses inflections from the peaks and valleys of the improvisation.
Numerically Evans and Guy may be a duo. But the syllogistic musical moments they create together contain enough ideas, developments and extensions that otherwise could have come from a much larger ensemble.
(Ken Waxman)

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