112CD - Bianco Brackenbury - Rising Up - CD plus downloadTweet
A no holds barred free jazz duo equally balancing fire / momentum with space / texture.
Faith – “Everything is first takes and no edits, and so captures some raw feelings. It feels to me that all my learning and training, and unlearning and exploration has come to this point in a deep connection with Tony’s own musical flow.”
Tony – “It’s like providence brought us together…to get through these times…but also to explore our
constantly expanding ideas and concepts in music.”
Tony Bianco is a drummer, percussionist and composer born in New York City, who has worked in a career spanning many years with a who’s who of improvised music: Dave Liebman, Alex Schlippenbach, Aki Takase, Paul Dunmall, Elton Dean, Paul Rutherford, Keith Tippett, Paul Rogers, John Edwards and recently Evan Parker and many others.
Faith Brackenbury studied violin classically at music school, diversifying into jazz, folk and rock at university. Her path has wound through violin making, a jazz post grad at Birmingham conservatoire, playing and recording with saxophonist Martin Speake, a long time collaboration with indie-classical composer Tiny Leaves, alongside motherhood. Her KnifeAngel suite was released in 2019.
Faith Brackenbury – violin, viola
Tony Bianco – drums, bass
A pleasing series of musical vignettes rich in texture, all captured on first take. Powerful stuff. - Kevin Whitlock - JAZZWISE
Ex-pat New Yorker, Bianco arrived in Europe in the early ‘90s and immediately lit a fuse under the free jazz scene as an in-demand drummer of masterful timing with an inventive way around his drum kit. On this album, his sparkling drumming is well to the fore, but so is his bubbling, frenetic bass playing. He needs to be on top form because Brackenberry, on violin and viola, provides a challenging and refreshing freedom to the jazz violin. On this set, constraints of melody and structure are lifted and there is a riotous energy and enthusiasm in the playing of both members. Having played classical violin, then played folk professionally, Brackenberry has also developed her own voice in jazz and this effortlessly introduces lyrical hooks and phrases that she will revisit and twist in the playing while also pushing boundaries in the music’s structure. As her lines swoop and soar, Bianco’s bass and drums provides a motive force to the music that is both cajoling and responding to the playing, inventing new lines and suggesting new directions. At times, Brackenberry’s playing was reminiscent of Ornette Coleman in its striving to draw a simple lyricism into an unstructured free-wheeling form. But where Coleman was working ab initio from violin to the sound, Brackenberry is having to unlearn and let go of imperatives of tone from classical playing or structure from folk music to find a place where each note is not predicated on some learned necessity but becomes a thing in its own space and of its own right. Having said this about the freedom of the playing, the closing piece (on the download only version of the album) is a 16 minute version of ‘Wichita Lineman’, which begins with the tune played cleanly, clearly and plaintively. A repeated piano line and shuffling drum pattern provide the backing for a series of extemporisations on the theme which drift (but not too far) from melody, chord structure and tempo. In a way, this is more startling and unnerving than the freer pieces here; if only because it reveals an adherence to the written line that the duo have fought against in the other pieces, and makes clear how hard that fight can be (and how triumphantly they win it). - Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS
Talk about your dynamic duos. Drummer/bassist Tony Bianco and violinist/violaist Faith Brackenbury have pooled their talents to come up with one of the best such meetings in recent memory. Recorded in the spring of 2021, these three long pieces go a long way to demonstrating the pair’s collective psyche as they stormed the studio. Bianco’s pedigree is the sturdy backbone that anchors this recording: he’s lent his particular genius to recordings with such sterling colleagues as Paul Dunmall, Elton Dean, and Evan Parker, but his tenure in fusion outfit Machine Mass (alongside Dave Liebman) is what really gives this disc heft. Though relatively new on the scene, Brackenbury’s classically trained and talented as all get-out; it’s obvious there’s a telepathic sensibility these two share, evidenced by the powerful synergy fomented during this collaboration. Point of fact: they didn’t nick their disc Rising Up for just beer ’n’ skittles. During the thirty-one minute trajectory of the title track, the duo presage something of an acoustic mini-Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bianco’s shapeshifting percussive maelstrom (atop overdubbed bass) echoing Billy Cobham’s fire and brimstone, as Brackenbury whips up strokes of tornadic muscle in the finest Jerry Goodman tradition. The level of energy maintained across this expansive landscape is nothing short of breathtaking; Bianco manages to not only rock his kit into submission, he provides the essential blueprint from which Brackenbury spills wild, far-flung tonalities across cartographic oceans. Afterwards, “Gypsy Softbread” walks tentatively across the now-scorched earth, Brackenbury’s viola peeking its head out amongst Bianco’s probing cymbals, scattershot shakers, and weary snares, all to ponder how to navigate the vast emptiness left in their wake. Serenity now? Not exactly. The closing fifteen minutes of “Assassin” hardly lets its guard down. Bianco first teases us with some gently arousing surface noise, but his drumstrikes inevitably pick up a mighty head of steam, the better for Brackenbury to alternately sustain then attack; as she responds to her partner’s percussive downpour, her sharply-etched yet remarkably fluid linearity fairly sets the dance alight. Apparently, it only really does take two to tango. - Darren Bergstein, DMG NYC
‘Rising Up’ is a duo-work by Tony Bianco and Faith Brackenbury. Bianco is a composer and drummer from New York who worked with David Liebmann, Alex von Schlippenbach, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, John Edwards and many other giant improvisers. Faith Brackenbury is of a younger generation with a very different musical background. She studied classical violin but absorbed influences of jazz, improvisation, folk and rock as well. Played with Irish folk band Slainte and Hot Club-style bands. During 2015-2016 she was part Martin Speake’s band Mafarowi. In 2019 she released her album ‘Knife Angel Suite’, folk and jazz-influenced four-part suite performed by Martin Speake (alto sax), Rob Luft (guitar), Alex Maguire (piano) and Will Glaser (drums) and Brackenbury on violin. No idea how both met, and how their collaboration came about. From what I can trace, they started their work in August last year. The more remarkable it is how exceptional the interplay between the two is. The cd gives room to three of their extended improvisations moving between 15 and 31minutes. On Bandcamp, one more improvisation is added. Opening improvisation ‘Rising Up’ is a 31-minute exercise of Bianco playing the percussion in a way that makes the impression of a constant flow. For Brackenbury an ideal companion for delivering some intense soloing. Bass is added later. The dynamics of their performance are at a constant intensity level with melodic improvisations by Brackenbury. Throughout she succeeds in exploring the melodic material in a captivating way. ‘Gypsy Softbread’ starts with sparse percussive gestures, with Brackenbury playing motives on the viola pizzicato and later with a bow. With the influences of folk music, the music moves on an abstract level. In the second phase, there is a very captivating battle between the two with answer-response type passages. In all this a very fruitful first meeting with very expressive and inspired playing. In all three improvisations, they keep the tension from start to finish! - Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY
The Bianco / Brackenbury project emerged out of the Covid lockdown, with the pair meeting up on a regular basis to play and to discuss musical and political ideas. Brackenbury speaks of the challenges of playing without harmony in a free jazz context and of ‘unlearning’ the techniques and ideas acquired through years of performing both classical and folk music. The duo’s improvisations were sometimes piano and strings, sometimes drums and strings. On the recording Bianco focusses on the drum kit but also overdubs some double bass parts, Brackenbury plays both violin and viola. Of the music Brackenbury comments; “Everything is first takes and no edits, and so captures some raw feelings”. She also speaks of her “deep connection to Tony’s own musical flow”. For his part Bianco states; “It’s like providence brought us together, to get through these times, but also to explore our constantly expanding ideas and concepts in music”. The album commences with the thirty one minute title track, beginning with the sound of Bianco’s drums and overdubbed double bass, the latter providing a sense of structure around which the other instruments can coalesce. The restless polyrhythmic flow of Bianco’s drumming is complemented by the swooping and soaring of Brackenbury’s violin, improvising very much in the manner of a horn player. There’s an instinctive rapport between the two and a real sense of energy and urgency about the performances, with Brackenbury’s bravura bowing having elicited comparisons with the playing of Jerry Goodman, violinist with The Flock and with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Brackenbury briefly drops out to allow Bianco to duet with himself on drums and bass, but she’s soon back and playing with that same combination of grace and fire as the duo continue to perform with a thrilling, free-wheeling intensity. There’s no letting up as the duo continue hell for leather for the whole of the track, with Brackenbury weaving melodic spells around Bianco’s anchoring bass lines and his relentless percussive barrage. It represents an exhausting, but exhilarating listening experience. Also lasting for a little over half an hour “Gypsy Softbread” is gentler and more impressionistic, with Bianco adopting more of a colourist’s role. The opening passages feature the chimes and shimmers of mallets on cymbals, the rustle of shakers and the sounds of Brackenbury’s pizzicato violin, or more likely viola - when she subsequently picks up the bow there’s a grainy resonance that suggests the latter. Here the duo’s explorations are more tentative, more concerned with creating atmosphere and texture than generating pure energy, which is not to imply that there’s a lack of intensity or purpose, indeed the duo’s improvising retains a certain edge and frisson throughout, even in its most impressionistic moments. Brackenbury reverts to the pizzicato technique, creating an almost koto like sound as she duets with Bianco on one one of the most absorbing passages of the entire piece. The bow then returns to usher in a more urgent and fractious passage, this followed by a more intimate set of string / percussion exchanges in which you can almost hear the protagonists thinking, with Brackenbury deploying both pizzicato and arco techniques. At fifteen and a half minutes duration the closing “Assassin” is the shortest track on the album, a piece that combines the intimacy of “Gypsy Softbread” with the energy of the title track. The opening exchanges are both vigorous and responsive with Brackenbury responding to Bianco’s skittering snare and fizzing cymbals as the pair go head to head in a mutually satisfying duel that sees Brackenbury’s mercurial melodic lines answered by Bianco’s relentless percussive flow. Gradually the pair ramp the energy levels up until they finally approach the kinetic intensity of the earlier “Rising Up”. It’s a fascinating mix of Bianco’s free jazz polyrhythmic percussive whirl and Brackenbury’s consistently fluent and melodic improvised string lines, her playing even in this context informed by the melodic sensibilities of her folk and classical background. Having finally reached a peak of intensity the piece is resolved via a gentler, more impressionistic passage that sees Brackenbury deploying both pizzicato and arco sounds, including the eerie bowed drone that concludes the performance. The digital version of the album also includes a remarkable sixteen and a half minute version of the classic Jimmy Webb song “Wichita Lineman” that combines a repeating piano motif with a skittering brushed drum groove, both of these played by Bianco I would guess. Brackenbury states the famous melody before embarking on a fascinating series of thematic variations, probing deeply but never entirely losing sight of the initial theme, and still retaining something of the exquisite melancholy that characterises Webb’s best, and arguably most famous, song. Boasting the distinctive artwork of Julie Cole, this in turn based on the heron sculpture “Transition” by Abbie Lathe “Rising Up” represents a distinctive package. Even more distinctive is the music, a meeting between two curious musicians from different musical backgrounds who manage to blend beautifully to produce music that successfully combines energy with beauty and challenging improvisation with instinctive melody. Bianco Brackenbury is a highly effective merging of musical minds and features some of Faith Brackenbury’s most adventurous playing to date. The improvised nature of the music won’t appeal to all ears, but nevertheless the duo’s sound is still readily accessible to most adventurous listeners. Now that live music is opening up again one suspects that the drums/strings duo of Bianco Brackenbury would also represent an intriguing and exciting live proposition. This album is ready proof that some good things actually did come out of lockdown. - Ian Mann, JAZZMANN https://www.thejazzmann.com/