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Shot X Shot: Shot X Shot

Robert R. Calder

Five sustained extended performances, melodic, sensitive to timbre and phrasing, but improvised music of a demanding sort by two ace saxophonists, with bass and drums to match.

Shot X Shot

Shot X Shot

Label: High Two
US Release Date: 2006-04-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

At the start, Dan Capecchi achieves some amazing atmospheric effects in the echoey acoustics of the church where this set was recorded. Dan Scofield's alto sounds not quite eerie, and anything but passionless, from its clean and clear entry, with Bryan Rogers on tenor developing an accompaniment before coming to the front, and Matt Engle maintaining a steady pace on bass. The bass sounds rather doomy at times, as the saxophones proceed into a more involved interplay. The notes refer to these performances as "compositions", and over the eleven-and-three-quarter minutes of "Bee Assassins" the bassist and drummer contribute to a maintenance of continuity. Nobody wants to lose the listener, although with a lack of concentration quite a lot of listeners could feel lost. A third of the way into this opener there is a pause, Engle takes things up, solo, and when the horns resume it's clear enough how much they've worked together, harmonising as well as playing counter-lines, each knowing when to lay out -- here mostly the tenorist -- to let the other develop a solo line. The pioneers of this sort of playing, and too many exponents of more orthodoxly structured post-bop jazz, have not always had such a concern with the sonority of their saxophones as these men. They think, and they are patient. They phrase, which is one thing that differentiates them from Pierre Boulez. The repeated phrase between eight and nine minutes in does seem to be a shade overdone, however.

The notes' reference to Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh isn't bullshit. "One Point Three Full Breaths" is a few seconds longer than the opener, and also composer-credited to Capecchi. The two maestri of the "cool" do come to mind from the start here, and again at the opening of "Two Improvisations", no composer credited. There is a certain elevation to the music, which is not cold or eerie, but a work of intense concentration. Konitz and Marsh don't seem that far away, although the textural blending is different from anything I ever heard from them. The drummer and bassist open the second improvisation and Scofield sounds a shade like the young Charlie Mariano. The drums dance, the bass plays pedal notes, and then there's more textural interplay between masters of their horns.

At the beginning of "Volzalisle", Scofield's handsome sound rings out over Rogers's tenor, initially unaccompanied, then with triangle-cymbal highlightings. The theme resembles "Fanfare for the Common Man". The tenor goes down, and the alto, as occasionally before, performs a lyrical falsetto. The textural effects are impressive -- the tenorist digging in, the alto flying, and the drummer clicking and crashing as the music builds to a dramatic volume -- and it's hard to imagine there are only two horns; amazing to observe that each saxophonist is still committed to phrase and line.

Engle's "Chains of Agree" opens very lyrically, with even more Konitz and Marsh, with the bassist making a sizeable contribution and the altoist making it even more clear how accomplished a player he is. There are thirteen minutes to that performance, and the preceding pair last just above ten minutes each -- the music is not short on inspiration, or indeed structure, but it's definitely for the committed listener, and short of a very intense study, hard to discuss in terms other than the above.


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