Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Fabrizio Cassol/Kris Defoort - 23/03/2004, Brussels

Fabrizio Cassol - as
Kris Defoort - p

I've only just realised that I'm going through a mini piano-sax phase: this concert and the Shepp/Myers tomorrow, the very good Frahm/Mehldau CD and another, rather forgettable, CD that I listened to the other day.

The concert was intially advertised as an aulochrome solo, then duo with Defoort and in the end Cassol turned up with just his usual alto, for an unexplained reason. I was disappointed at first, but the music was quite satisfying nonetheless.

Despite the fact that they've known each other for decades, Defoort and Cassol had never performed as a duo before and had simply rehearsed the music the day before. I don't know if the repertoire was new as well, such was the ease with which they moved between solos and duos and composed and improvised material. While Cassol may be the better-known of the two thanks to his long-standing group AKA Moon (if you don't know it, I highly recommend you check out some of their CDs, especially the ones with Indian musicians), he and Defoort share being composers and instrumentalists equally active in jazz, improvised music and contemporary music.

Cassol started alone, drawing soft vertical lines full of curls-within-curls. Defoort then took his own solo, a beautifully logical and concise statement beginning with slow, abstract plunks which grew into bluesy clusters and ended on lush, romantic jazz changes. When they played together, the composed melodies melded a blues-tinged lyricism with very interesting and open compositonal forms. During a passage in which Defoort was accompanying Cassol's soft high notes by alternating played and plucked notes, the former suddenly punched the front of the piano. I was quite startled.

The second piece was built around a rhythmic, lugubrious motif (it recurred often, but not quite often enough to call it a vamp) in the piano's low register that would have been quite funky had it been played with more gusto. This motif re-appeared at key moments, as if to ground Cassol's solitary flights. In the last piece, an even simpler two-note motif served a similar purpose.

Roles were reversed in the intervening piece, as Cassol accompanied Defoort's furious piano attack (sometimes using the back of his hand) with an incongruously bouncy and joyous alto line. When Cassol took over, Defoort left the piano's sustain pedal depressed, so the saxophonist was accompanied by the piano strings' sympathetic reverberations.

During the closing number, Defoort took a solo that was as if he was taking the basic blues element, the blues scale, and throwing it directly into a modern/avant-garde context, while ignoring the incremental sophistication jazz had taken the blues language through. This blues element, peppered throughout the concert, really, gave this duo's advanced harmonic language a grounding in something more immediate, an appealing combination.