Monday, March 26, 2012
Will Guthrie - Sticks, Stones & Breaking Bones (Antboy)
A few years ago, I picked up a duo recording on Matchless of a live concert with Eddie Prevost and Alex von Schlippenbach. I wasn't expecting so much, never having been a big fan of the latter's work, but I wanted to keep abreast of Eddie's playing. The hour-long disc was divided roughly equally between two solo pieces and a duo. As I wrote here, Prevost's performance absolutely floored me, Not just that it was great percussion (to be expected) but that it was great within an overtly jazz context, an area I'd all but given hope could ever excite me like that again. To be sure, it was an almost unique experience. The only music that's come close to delivering that kind of wallop for me while still deriving from jazz roots is that of The Ames Room, the trio of Jean-Luc Guionnet, Clayton Thomas and Will Guthrie that has released two fine albums (that I'm aware of) in the past couple of years.
Well, Guthrie's gone and done it again. I remember talking with Will in Nantes some years back, much of our discussion centering around a shared love of the music of Roscoe Mitchell. Mitchell's one of dozens (hundreds?) of people name-checked on the inside sleeve of this release along with (to pick at random), Mattin, Chewbacca, Diana Ross, James Brown and Eric Gravatt. What come through here, however, in three pieces, is something very akin to Prevost's set in at least one respect: Lessons learned in terms of structure and pacing, almost like some diabolical amalgam of Art Blakey and AMM.
The disc itself is finely structured as well, leaping into things with "Sticks", which sounds like the Blakey/Olatunji sessions reinvigorated. Eight and a half minutes of thunder, roiling, deeply grooved, wonderfully cadenced, initial hanging clusters tumbling into roll upon billowing roll. This is dextrous music. This is virtuosic music. And yet, it doesn't preen, isn't overweening. There's such an openness about it, such an obvious joy in the playing that those concerns go by the board. "Stones" begins by regrouping, smaller sounds up front but just when you think, "Ah, this will be the spacey track", matter start boiling once again. Guthrie keeps things on a delicious low heat, scrapes and sticks spattering, metal ringing, slowly coalescing until the skins take over, heat kept at medium, but such subtle playing. Some of you may recall Barry Atschul's intricate solo feature on the Circle "Paris Concert" recording from 1971. This is kinda like that. But better. For 15+ minutes.
And finally comes "Breaking Bones". If there was one track here about which I'd been given a verbal description and would have thought, "No, that's not for me." it would have been this one. Guthrie jumps right in with a ferocious, pounding rhythm and nevr lets up, not once, for over 16 minutes. The piece just ripples, expands, contracts, cascades, drives relentlessly to its terminus, casting off dozens of cross rhythms, sub-rhythms. All skin, no cymbals until the very end. Gene Krupa channeled through Hamid Drake. On 'roids. It should have been too over the top, too in one's face, too overt. But it's not, somehow it's not. Much like the music of The Ames Room, it manages to bypass all those traps. I've no idea how, though I suspect it has something to with what I alluded to above: the sheer joy, the uncynical exuberance experienced during the music's creation.
Available from Erst Dist