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Nuts - Symphony for Old and New Dimensions

Paul Serralheiro, The Squid's Ear

What a great orchestration set-up! Two trumpets, two drummers and a bass player. Throw in some distinct personalities and mature voices and this explains the huge appeal of this recording that speaks many times, with each listen. Kudos to Ayler records for capturing this memorable live session in France. When improv magic happens, there's nothing like it, and this disc has it.

The peacefulness of the music, notwithstanding the occasionally intense textures, is striking. The instrumentation of two trumpeters, two drummers and a bass player provides an interesting "funnel form" with the bass at the vortex of the energies by a kind of mirror-image trio. The potential for cacophony and miscommunication is always present in any freely-improvised music, a feature that can often be exploited as one of several possible musical textures. But here, there is almost nothing but serene concord, even with tensions and sparks flying in the more energetic moments. But this quality of peace might be explainable in the depth of the musical art of trumpeter Rasul Siddik, a former AACM member, and the equally seasoned playing of fellow trumpeter Itaru Oki (who also plays flute and, like Siddik, flugelhorn and percussion objects).

Drummers Didier Lasserre and Makoto Sato are complementary personalities. Having a second drummer on the gig forces each to really listen and be acutely aware of how what one plays fits into the group dynamic, which includes rhythm, as well as timbre, texture, melodic line and harmonic occurrences.

The improvisations, performed at Le Carre Bleu in Poitiers, France on February 5, 2009, appear as two movements, which are like two large panels, one entitled "Paths" and the other "Fields." The first, running at 24:03, is the more active of the two, lots of motion and deliberate clashes, but with very clear linearity in the playing of the quintet.

More interesting and varied is the second movement, which, as its title aptly evokes, provides an opening-outward, a sense of expansion. At 43:03 it completes the concert, providing a fully-developed concept of musical motifs, explored, elaborated on and presented from different perspectives. The session's title of Symphony for Old and New Dimensions is appropriate, given the scope of the thematic material that this group comes up with, making for, indeed, a work of symphonic proportions and depth.