Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ursel Schlicht and Bruce Arnold, String Theory

A number of years ago the idea that a very acoustic piano and a very electric guitar (plus electronics) would fruitfully engage in a free-wheeling set of improvisational compositions would have been pretty rarified. A few years before that, virtually an unheard occurrence.

Today it is not that surprising. But then almost any combination of instruments is possible and sometimes even commonplace in the musical avant garde of the present.

When the results are as musically satisfying as the CD at hand, though, you have an uncommon event.

String Theory (Muse Eek 124) teams pianist Ursel Schlicht with guitarist Bruce Arnold. There are five duets on the recording, including a three-part "String Suite." All of it is quite engaging.

What strikes me about these improvisations is the highly imaginative inventiveness of both players, the varied atmospheric mood sequences and the attention to sound color. Bruce, his guitar and some sort of computer driven electronic device called the supercollider, gets blankets of sound that vary from the super quiet to the more turbulent. His individual line constructions are always interesting. Usel Schlicht plays inside and outside her instrument with a real pianism that explains why she has been gaining admiration in and around the New York area for several years. She too plays with a fresh sort of melodic-harmonic sense. Together they create a new music-free improvisation hybrid that has some of the power of the latter with the dynamic and contentual breadth of the former. These are improvisational compositions. Each segment seems thoughtfully preconceived so that there is both looseness and structure in play at all times.

There are parts that drive and more meditative moments. All of it seems inspired to me.

Highly recommended.

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