27CD - ASK - Acoustic quartet 2006
This new version of ASK is captured here at a typical Concerts evening in Sheffield. The music moves between the languages of free improv and chamber-like AACM textures and melodies.
ASK has had an eccentric group history: formed by Archer and Jasnoch, beginning as an improvising group with a short lived version including mavericks Dan Weaver and Matt Wand, then going on as a duo to produce the pair of firmly studio based creations released on Discus in 1998 and 2004 respectively.
This current incarnation was prompted by John's desire to concentrate on acoustic instrumentation, and was formed at his suggestion. Both John and Martin wished to move the group into a live performance direction at this point. Since this recording (the first concert by the new quartet), the group has moved on further to become an acoustic improvising six piece.
The style of the group, by and large, side steps both the language of "classic" european free improv and even the more recent lower case improv developments which have previously interested Archer and Jasnoch. Working solely with acoustic woodwind, Archer takes the opportunity to revisit a more "in the tradition" style of playing than on recent records, reflecting a lifelong attachment to the music of Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. Jasnoch, who put aside his electric intruments to concentrate on developing a more personal style of playing on an extended range of acoustic strings, continues to bring melodic and middle eastern influences to the group. Rosenfeld is a player equally comfortable with both the Trout Quintet and free improv, and she brings a solid melodic sense and some deep listening to the group. Collins, now convincingly reinvented as a vibraphone player, continues to extend the sound of the group still further through his use of a wide range of metal percussion instruments and lamellophones (the mbira family of instruments), placing his sound somewhere between Chicago improv and the industrial music areas with which he has sometimes previously been associated.
So here we are at a typical concert at Concerts in Sheffield, a small audience in the intimate atmosphere of the upper room at the Red Deer. It was always thus.
Martin Archer - sopranino and alto saxes, bass recorder
John Jasnoch - 12 string guitar, ud, mandolin, frame drum
Angela Rosenfeld - cello
Charlie Collins - vibraphone, lamellophones, metal percussion
As the title suggests this is something of an evoluntionary leap for the largely electronic, studio based duo of Archer and Jasnoch. Here, an expanded ASK plays a live set of five lengthy, untitled improvisations, using exclusively acoustic instrumentation. It's a setting which seems to encourage some of the most "conventional" playing heard from Archer in a long time, and a definite nod toward the iconic peregrinations of Anthony Braxton: with its vibraphone tinkering and guttural alto bursts, the opener could almost be a lost cut from Braxton's This Time. There are plenty of delightful, spontaneous flowerings throughout - such as Archer's bluesy bluesy lick that takes off three minutes into the second piece or Jasnoch's middle eastern oud plucking joined by a slithering sopranino six minutes into track three. For admirers of both European improv and old-school Chicago free-jazz, this one is a must. - Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise
Archer tends to sound acerbically assertive.....Jasnoch is tuneful and allusive.....Collins oddly raw on vibraphone.....Rosenfeld's contribution is subtle and cohesive. AACM values seem to provide the main springboard into this music - Julian Cowley, WIRE
Usually occupied with recording studio-intensive electronic music featuring synthesizers, sampling and sound manipulation, British reedist Martin Archer returns to his acoustic roots here. Concisely described by its title, the disc is 73 minutes of improv in the raw, that while a bit meandering, is as notable as Archer’s more self-consciously analytical electro-acoustic projects. Not only does Archer stick to sopranino and alto saxophones plus bass recorder, but long-time partner John Jasnoch eschews electricity to play acoustic 12-string guitar, oud, mandolin and frame drum. Angela Rosenfeld appends multiphonic cello lines and Charlie Collins adds a sound veneer with background and foreground vibraphone and percussion textures. Diffident and jaunty at junctures, the ongoing improvisations often rely on broken octave intersections, with say, Rosenfeld’s sul ponticello, tremolo rasps matched with Collins’ concussive vibe reverberations; or Archer’s repetitive flutter tonguing and slurs decorated by Jasnoch’s flanged yet decorous finger-picking. Surprisingly, for players wedded to technology, an extended section of the lengthiest – almost 32 minute – improvisation finds the group suggesting the sounds of nomads sitting around a desert fire rattling and rubbing percussion instruments. Nasal and cavernous near moose calls from the recorder plus dense scrawls and scrapes from the cello pulsate above hollow frame drum thumps until the piece finally turns more abstract. Guided by Collins’ plucking individual strings beneath the guitar’s bridge and the vibist’s ringing tones, an earlier theme is then recapped, until deciding that sounds can’t be further minimized, the players dissolve into guffaws. Impressively personal music, the CD proves that there are still many acoustic timbres to explore – even for those committed to studio-based, high-tech formats. - Ken Waxman, Jazz Word
This CD, on this listening, I love. There's a real sense of the sounds unfurling in the moment. Collins' percussion really makes it for me, and the other players exercise the discretion to shut up and just leave him to it from time to time. - MUSIC ARCADES
Che qualità! Che classe!!
Ma quale fragranza di suoni e di idee!!! Dio benedica gli ASK!!!! Dio benedica la piccola città di Sheffield e renda merito al suo cittadino ‘onorario’ Martin Archer che continua imperterrito nella frenetica e appassionata attività di divulgatore, raffinato e preparato, di moderne sonorità improvvisate. Stiamo per reincontrare uno dei progetti con ai posti di comando la coppia Archer-John Jasnoch di cui evidenziammo le ‘azioni perpetrate’ qualche mese fa, mediante una discussione aperta in merito la precedente uscita, “The Formulary of Curses”. Anche qui struttura ispirata ad un ‘tema preciso’ e aperta alla libera collaborazione con più musicisti che vanno ad ampliare, o meglio a scardinare la classica idea di duo rigido e immobile nella formazione. Il modus operandi è stato quello di seguire, nella scelta degli strumenti, un percorso completamente acustico e di registrare, successivamente, cinque-lunghe improvvisazioni tutte dal vivo, orfane del titolo, ma cariche di buona ispirazione free… jazz. Si, perché nell’anima più (in)conscia di “Acoustic Quartet 2006” vivono ricordi di Chicago, della scuola AACM di Anthony Braxton e persino di uno ‘sbiadito’ Modern Jazz Quartet: specialmente se ad assalire le nostre orecchie vi è Charlie Collins con il suo impeccabile mood – astratto - al vibrafono; per non dimenticarci, poi, del suo fantasmagorico waterphone e dell’aria orientaleggiante sfociata dal tocco inflitto alla mbira. L’armamentario si amplia andando dal violoncello di Angela Rosenfeld, al sax alto e sopranino di Archer – anche al bass recorder – dalle miniature emanate dal mandolino e dalla 12 corde di Jasnoch al vetro e alla ceramica passata per le mani di Dave Clayton, partecipe solo sul calare della terza session. Come sempre, anche qui è difficile descrivere razionalmente, in parole chiare e semplici, tutti i momenti incontrati nell’ascolto ‘globale’ del cd, ma si può comunque ovviare questo discorso, dividendo l’intero lotto in tre momenti ben distinti nella VERVE. Le timbriche aspre e politicamente scorrette penetrano ovunque ma si inseriscono dentro contesti differenti: affamati di free all’inizio, pacati nel mezzo, sospesi tra un misto di soluzioni sbarazzine – sempre per opera del vibrafono – e vagamente mediorientali al termine. A parte tutto, lo spirito improv di questo strambo duo-quartetto è puro e incontaminato, il senso innato per il CARPE DIEM raggiunge il massimo della sua ‘bellezza’ quando durante la terza session i musicisti cominciano a parlare animosamente tra loro senza mai smettere un secondo di suonare. E il tutto è stato registrato integralmente senza subire nessuna forma di censura o di ‘finto’ montaggio perbenista. - KATHODIK
It's a varied set, and unusually for European free improv, not afraid to betray influences or sound remotely accessible. Interestingly it sounds at times almost like jazz. Courtesy of the cool vibe sound of Charlie Collins it's easy to make a comparison to Eric Dolphy's twisted masterpiece Out To Lunch.....there's a Masada like section which Zorn himself would surely be proud of. All of which makes it entirely more listenable than I thought it would be before I gave it a spin. - Aaron Robertson, SOUND PROJECTOR.
Acoustic improvisation chamber-like quartet inhabiting polytonal harmonic envelops -a result of background coexistence and strong individual standpoints- simultaneous soloing, or more ruidist explorations if distanced from hyperdense free proposals - MODISTI