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In September 2003, US-based Canadian percussionist Harris Eisenstadt was visiting the UK. He made time to do a little trio playing with Messrs. Smith and Fell, and this CD documents the superb Klinker Club gig which resulted.
released August 9, 2005
Ian Smith: trumpet
Simon H. Fell: double bass
Harris Eisenstadt: drums
full track listing:
1. Potassium [16:27]
2. 1024 Words [09:23]
3. Voiceless Velar Stop [13:17]
4. The Unit Vector Along The Z-Axis [07:29]
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"Pursuing the ideal balance of dynamic interplay in a succession of loud/soft/loud incarnations, this trio collects photos of barely controlled freedom which sound concretely inquisitive. Upon a complex rhythmical kaleidoscope built by Eisenstadt, who somehow glues the ever-growing polymorphous developments of multicoloured timbral nuances, Smith blows masterfully through a conglomerate of labyrinthine utterances and dramatic voice alterations, looking at a past in transit through many influences (heaven knows why I was reminded of The Mothers Of Invention's Weasels Ripped My Flesh more than once). Fell's possession of the double bass is complete and wholly gratifying; he sustains tension with accurate technique and effortless efficiency, his conversational skills within the trio always intelligible, even in the most burning sections. The music climbs quite high in spiraliform paths, reinforced rather than disturbed by its own disorders, heading to a corrugated consciousness that acts as these musicians' manifesto; amidst all this uncontrollable movement, snippets of phrases and melodic twists appear every once in a while as to give some orientation to the ones who could get lost in the realms of this truly unpigeonholeable kind of improvisation." Massimo Ricci TOUCHING EXTREMES
"Harris Eisenstadt's flexibility and talent is a thing to behold, and his discography is getting to be a guided tour of the myriad streams creative improvised music flows in these days. Get him in a London dive with double bassist Simon H. Fell and you'll hear him put his own percussive twist on the sort of intricately detailed, hyperactive free improv pioneered by John Stevens' SME. At least that's what happened on September 2nd, 2003 in the company of trumpeter Ian Smith, who adds some smudges and slices to the proceedings. My first spin through the disc was a real pleasure, but when I gave it a go with headphones the intense detail in Fell's playing really opened up and dazzled my senses. Fell cycles through more unconventional techniques in one piece than most double bassists do in a full year, uncovering nooks and crannies of sound everywhere his hands and implements take him. Most remarkable, though, is the way he sounds careful, precise, and restrained even when he's playing with furious energy. Eisenstadt's playing here has the same rare virtue and the combination amounts to a dizzying percussion duet of sorts, with an incredible variety of timbres and attacks that makes the distinction between the two instruments insignificant. Even though an analytical listen easily reveals that they are playing in a very rapid, kinetic, ping-ponging style based around physicality and momentum, they both use such a wide palette of sounds in the brief confines of a single moment that the music never sounds cluttered; each sound has its own space in the mix where it feels like an isolated fragment. Eisenstadt seems to be using his entire drumkit and percussion array at all times with enough precision to beg favorable comparisons to Gerry Hemingway. As important as anything else, they also control their volumes at all times, freely ranging from tinkle to thwack, but tending towards a low-medium level that makes the music seem all the more focused. These remarks apply generally to three of the four tracks, but Voiceless Velar Stop is the disc's dramatic departure, a 13 minute piece of extremely low volume levels sustained till the final minutes. Smith skips his busy bluster and plays soft crackling un-trumpet-like textures that blend with Fell's faint threads of austere arco (recalling his work in IST with Wastell and Davies). Whereas a lot of percussionists would dig into some bowing and rubbing, Eisenstadt's response is refreshing because he's comfortable enough to retain the kinetic, pointillistic approach of the other pieces while carefully matching his volume to the other two, creating gentle contrasts between motion and stasis." Michael Anton Parker DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY
"A momento of the drummer's visit to the United Kingdom, Eisenstadt's apparently relaxed in the improvisational role on the four instant compositions here. Fell, who has been a consummate combo player for years - as well as being an ambitious composer - is an asset in any circumstances, but the biggest surprise is Smith. His confident soloing in all registers of the horn easily allows him to hold up his part of the triangular equation; the spurts of resolute brass timbres with which he decorates his solo on the last three minutes of Voiceless Velar Stop are some of the most impressive trumpeting anywhere. Smith appends a few bent notes as a coda, having been hectored along by steady bowing from Fell and blunt ratamacues from Eisenstadt. Prior to that, the trumpeter moves from audacious mouthpiece tongue kisses to wah-wah buzzes plus clenched teeth slurs; he's so in step with the drummer, that often a tone could be as much brass as percussion. Imbued with the sprit of older British rhythm makers like Tony Oxley and Roger Turner, Eisenstadt sleekly works his way through his kit, matching heavy knocking on the rims with split-second whispering reverberation, and clanging chains on top of the heads as often as he attacks them full force. Someone who has studied with the griots in Africa, he brings darbuka and djembe hand-drum resonations to other sections, such as an extended work-out on the final track which contrasts nicely with Fell's legato, Europeanized bowed notes. Able to express spiccato vibrations with the same ease as walking, the bassist's string organization encompasses buzzing sul tasto excursions and sections where he moves the tonal centre with polyrhythmic scratches and reverb. Strumming and sometimes nearly in slap bass territory, Fell is never at a loss as to how to rebound the pulse back and forth to the others. Plus the trumpeter is there to let loose with anything including sonorous pedal tones, purring valve whistling, fowl-like quacks, speedy brass bites and plunger whines. K 3 is a keeper." Ken Waxman JAZZ WEEKLY
"I've never heard a disc so full of sounds and sonic diversity exist somehow so close to silence. I don't mean to imply that movement and form are absent - this simply isn't true. Yet, this trumpet-bass-drums trio has created music whose loudest moments demand and exude space, in which each gesture is an utterance unto itself while maintaining tangential but critical contact with surrounding forces. There are many moments of near-silence on K 3, and a quick dip into the opening moments of Voiceless Velar Stop tells the story. A few airily gorgeous long-tones from Smith and Fell form delicious ghost triads, with Eisenstadt only punctuating when necessary (which is less and less as the track wends its stealthy way). The two bookends to the disc are superficially more volatile, but repeated listening reveals a prefiguration (especially in the first track), hints of an as yet untold future that often manifests itself in the finest live performances. Halfway through Potassium, the dynamic level drops off abruptly, giving way to an uneasy series of susurrations, moans, growls, thumps and taps in which nervous energy and contemplation vie for prominence. Hindsight relegates this frozen moment to the nebulous realm of prophecy given developments in Voiceless, and the gradual realization of such ineluctability is breathtaking. Most surprising to me, though, is the degree to which individual identity is maintained throughout. While the instrumentation suggests jazz as topoi, I hear very little on this date that invokes jazz gestalt. Rather, Stockhausen's comments on Messiaen's third Rhythmic Etude, in which he compares each note to a galaxy, seem quite appropriate here. Melodic line in the conventional sense is almost non-existent, usurped by smears and dabs of sound, all held together beautifully by Eisenstadt's bottomless ticks and tings, executed with wisdom beyond his years. Great for us that he made time in September of 2003 to play this live date in London, another fresh addition to an always challenging and interesting catalogue." Marc Medwin DUSTED
"There are few musicians whose work spans as broad a range as Simon Fell. As composer, improviser, and accomplished bass player, Fell's restless creativity consistently shines through in a mind-boggling range of contexts. What is astonishing, though, is how he manages to pull all of his various interests together into an overarching vision, whether developing settings that synthesize composition and improvisation for both large ensembles and small units; using the studio to "recompose" densely orchestrated improvisations; pushing at the edges of acoustic "ghost notes" with the trio IST; or diving in to skirling free improvisations. K 3 captures a one-off collaboration between US percussionist Harris Eisenstadt in the company of Fell and UK trumpet player lan Smith. The music is pushed to total abstraction, utilizing strategies of contrasting levels of activity, velocity, and dynamics and eschewing any vestiges of linear momentum. Smith's trumpet playing is a particular revelation. His brassy blats and smears play off of the hyperactive spatters of Eisenstadt's drums. There is a clear jazz edge to his tone, which sounds almost radical these days when many trumpet players in the improv world seem inclined to turn their back on that vocabulary. But he can also dip down to breathy flutters and muted coloristic playing. Eisenstadt's percussion playing has a jazz edge as well. His phenomenal control of the full dynamic range of his kit, from ultra-quiet hiss to full-out cracks is impressive. The bright sonorities sometimes tend to move the focus off of Fell's bass playing. But a careful listen reveals how his arco scrapes and scrubbed harmonics create a dark underpinning to the improvisations. It is clear that the three are feeling each other out as they move from scrabbling flurries to hushed micro-texture to the closing piece which hints at a free lyricism." Michael Rosenstein SIGNAL TO NOISE
"Four long tracks are enough to show different sides of the improvisational personality of this trio. Here you have spontaneous phrases delivered by trumpet, double bass and percussion. Sometimes the percussion works as background noises and sometimes it takes a more prominent role on the compositions. The trumpet is constantly delivering lines that increase in intensity and are most of the time fast and precise. The double bass adds some rhythmic lines but is also used to extract new sounds and noises from the instrument, constantly challenging the listener's ears with new ideas. There is also space for silences where one instrument is left alone or when two of them are doing some background sounds and then the third instrument (mostly the trumpet) enters with a completely improvised line. As I said before this is a really ear challenging release." MUSIC EXTREME
"K 3 features terminally underrated trumpeter lan Smith in a live session from 2003, and erupts into life with Fell's busily bowed bass challenging Smith's cogently constructed retorts." Philip Clark DOUBLE BASSIST
"Interaction becomes the key ingredient for the trio of trumpeter Smith, bassist Fell, and percussionist Eisenstadt. Smith hits an opening tonal range that is matched by Fell's screeching strings to establish emphatically the outward direction of their music. From there, the three musicians become sound explorers seeking a utopian formula for communication. Fell rumbles up and down the bass neck with jagged tenacity as he mixes staccato plucked and bowed signals to solidify the unit. He moves into very quiet passages of eeriness and then explodes to ignite the trio. Eisenstadt provides a plethora of diverse percussive substance in both the quieter segments and those blowing at full gale force. With Smith pouring acidic fuel into the fire with crisp blasts or slurred innuendoes, the trio becomes a whirlwind of excitement spanning wideranging emotional swings. The music was recorded live at a London club and includes four jointly composed experiments offering both introspective musings and collective outbursts. Right-angle turns occur frequently; any of the three is likely to sink into a brooding scenario before encouraging the others either to respond in kind or to thrust the level of involvement to boisterous heights. They thrive on pulling unusual sparks out of the throats of their instruments. From rattling percussive thumps to ghoulish trumpet snarls to scratchy bass bowing, the music comes together with defiant confidence to make the session atypical and challenging." Frank Rubolino CADENCE
Bruce's Fingers is a record label founded in 1983 by bassist, composer & improviser Simon H. Fell. The label's
publications (which also include books and scores) are centred around free / contemporary jazz, improvised music & contemporary / experimental composition. Initially focussed on Fell's own work, the BF project has since expanded to include many other things besides......more
I don't think I've ever experienced a more profound feeling of being guided by an unseen force than the day we recorded this 70-minute piece of complex and challenging music in one exhilarating take. Bruce's Fingers