Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Michael Bisio & Kirk Knuffke, Row for William O.

Some albums jump right out at you from the very first notes and keep it up without the least bit of lag. That is certainly the case with Michael Bisio & Kirk Knuffke's Row for William O. (Relative Pitch RPR 1043). It is Kirk on cornet and Michael on bass with some beautiful synergies between composed and improvised lines, just the two in exceptional form, sounding free and modern as hell and as accomplished as anything you'd expect from them, maybe even more so!

The album is dedicated to the seminal clarinetist-educator William O. (Bill) Smith, with whom Michael was closely associated in the Seattle days. Now I read recently on social media (and I am writing from memory so I hope I get it right) that the title refers to a 12-tone row Smith once suggested based on the melody of "I Got Rhythm"! The idea was that (12-tone) modernism could be warm and familiar, that it need not sound like it came out of a laboratory. So this music has something to do with all that and we can hear it with Smith's "Drago," which opens the album, and in Michael's title work, but also throughout! The music soars and it is not necessary (though interesting) to absorb the full implications of William's thought, though the fact that you don't is exactly what he had in mind!. Anyway, from there follows three more Bisio compositions and a joint Bisio-Knuffke number.

There is an advanced melodic quality in both the compositions and the improvisations. Everything has both freedom and structure, so much so that the seamlessness of the inspired improvisations sound as compositional as the compositions.

Michael gets plenty of space for some very brilliant bass improvisations, some of his most advanced, which is saying a great deal. He gives you lots of hands-down reasons why he is at the top of the bass improv world here and it is breathtaking.

But then Kirk sounds fabulous as well, with beautifully expressive tone and some ear-grabbing phrases that go marvelously well with what Michael is unravelling throughout.

I am hard pressed to think of a more successful piece of artistry for trumpet-bass duet. It is that good. These two are striking musical gold, no matter where you find yourself in the set. It mad!

Can I suggest to you that you must not miss this one? It is the art of ultra-modern jazz at a peak. William O. Smith has been feted here with an ideal homage. Damn!

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