Assif Tsahar & Hamid Drake - Soul Bodies, vol.1

Derek Taylor, One Final Note

Brevity of turn-around time on this disc from recording to release date is but one indication of its explosive and artistically incalculable contents. Taped live during the 2001 Vision Festival in the basement confines of the Knitting Factory's Old Office, a set of music that for those who were there is likely to be named the pinnacle of the twelve day creative music celebration.
Fortunate enough to be in attendance less than four feet from the bells of Assif Tsahar's horns I can personally vouch for the veracity of these performances.
Thankfully this audio document captured by attending engineer Stephen Schmidt exists to dismiss any ill-founded claims to the contrary.

Hamid Drake is one of those persons integral to the current state of creative music, which for reasons of selflessness has chosen to eschew the role of leader for the equally important, if on the surface less glamorous, role of supportive sideman throughout his career. As anyone who has witnessed his work behind a kit knows, the sobriquet of sideman is hopelessly inappropriate in describing the geysers of energy he feeds into any ensemble of which he is a part.
Equally adept at scaring forth a sustaining, multidirectional rhythmic support or stepping to the fore for a solo that makes use of seemingly every limb and joint at his disposal at once, his percussive cumin knows no limits.

Tsahar brings a similar full-body aesthetic to his horn and watching him play is often akin to witnessing a whirling dervish in the throes of meditative transcendence. In this manner the pair are fittingly matched.

After cursory introductions by poet Steve Dalachinsky the duo commences their communal journey. Tsahar starts slow, blowing corded streams tinged with overtones above the sporadic ride cymbal accent from Drake. Soon the sonic waters muddy with the increased activity of Drake's richly textured polyrhythms. Tsahar rides the changing current of the street band cadence, moving from Rollinseque melodic fragments to an eventual reed-splaying eruption that brings to mind twilight Trane. But these referents are just that, approximations of a voice that is completely Tsahar's own. Demolishing register restrictions he sprays the audience with an expectorating barrage of notes from altissimo to near baritone. Drake responds by leaping the tempo forward or reining it back as the moment requires. His solo mid-piece recalls to mind the visual spectacle of his sticks, blurred by speed and punctilious resolve, connecting with virtually every surface of his kit, building a loquacious statement from the ground up, but not wasting a single stroke or stomp.

Clay Dancers; combines the breathy depth of Tsahar's bass clarinet with Drake's resonating frame drum and Arabic oratory into an improvisation that again starts slow, but quickly gains profundity. Thrumming a reverberating pulse around which Tsahar revolves in suspiration drones, Drake holds the audience transfixed for the piece's protracted duration.

Hearts Mind returns the musical brothers to the realm of spirited blowing, conjuring the spirit of Ayler and echoing the promise of the opening track in a final trajectory for sound-borne transfiguration.
A recent release on the French Marge imprint adds Hugh Ragin and Peter Kowald to the duo, suggesting that future meetings are all but inevitable. A lucky break for us as listeners, and convincing evidence that giants still walk the earth.