“Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries, British sax player Colin Webster and drummer Andrew Lisle and American, Amsterdam-based sax player John Dikeman insist on defining their free-improv art on their own terms, often even on their own independent labels. Uncompromising and intense free-improvisation, but often also a minimalist one that borrows ideas from drone, ambient textures.
Kodian Trio – II (Trost, 2017) ***½
Kodian Trio features alto sax player Webster and Andrew Lisle and guitarist Serries. The trio’s first concert was at London’s Café Oto two years ago, followed by a studio recording, I (A New Wave of Jazz, 2016) and two live recordings, Live at Paradox and Volt/Pletterij (on Webster’s label, Raw Tonk, 2016, 2017). II, the second studio recording, was captured in late 2016 in Brussels. II , more than the trio previous releases, defines Kodian Trio as an outfit that operates in the lines of a classic free jazz unit, opting for an intense, uncompromising interplay, with some degrees of playfulness. Webster, Lisle and Serries form tough and dense dynamics, never lose their restless momentum.
The longer pieces on II such “11:03” stress the unique and deep interplay that Kodian Trio have established. This piece dances with a hard-driving polyrhythmic pulse, scorches with a noisy, heavily distorted guitar drone, and boils with hyperactive sax shouts and shrieks — all interweave organically. “07:59” is the sparsest piece here, but even with only fractured ideas, Kodian Trio offer a detailed and coherent texture. “10:02” sketches an enigmatic, fragile story, enhanced by Webster’s extended breathing techniques and caressing blows, Serries’ subtle, ambient guitar loops and Lisle’s ringing cymbals.
Quartet & Quintet – Double Vortex (A New Wave of Jazz, 2107) ****
The Quartet is the Kodian Trio augmented by tenor sax player Dikeman, while the Quintet adds to the Quartet personnel British alto and baritone sax player Alan Wilkinson. The Quartet has previously released two live albums, Live at Café Oto (Raw Tonk, 2015), which documented the Quartet’s first ever performances, and the double live album, Apparitions (A New Wave of Jazz, 2016), which captured another performance of the Quartet from 2015. The live double album Double Vortex captures the Quartet and the Quintet performing on the same night in London’s Vortex club on April 2017, one of the loudest and most powerful concerts ever that took place at this club, according to Vortex owner Olivier Weindling
The Quartet opens the night and quickly settles in a volatile, uncompromising mode that threatens to pierce the stratosphere with its deafening mayhem. Webster – on alto and baritone saxes – and Dikeman – on tenor sax – keep dueling in the front with their urgent, mad shouts and shrieks, Serries injects noisy-metallic, fractured guitar lisle and Lisle is busy all over the drum set. In such a wild and ecstatic interplay there is no time to modify or refine the mode of playing, just act, and act fast and loud. Even when the Quartet slides – temporarily – into a more quiet and contemplative interplay before reaching the inevitable, explosive coda of this 37-minutes set.
The addition of Wilkinson ups the volume and temperature of the already hot and steamy Vortex club, but surprisingly also charges this powerful 45-minutes improvisation with a sense of order and direction. The interplay is still muscular and super-intense, but Wilkinson, takes the lead with his big, fierce sound – on both the alto and baritone saxes – similar to another sax-titan, Peter Brötzmann. Wilkinson has a far greater experience in such fiery meetings and he knows how to contain the sheer energy. The aggressive front-line of the three sax players – Dikeman still on the tenor sax while Webster focuses on the baritone sax – is often dissected to sax solos and duets, and these sax solos are more articulate and some are quite melodic and even fragile; Lisle rides on a massive pulse and colors cleverly the quiet segments and Serries envelopes this twisted yet playful interplay with industrial noises and suggestive drones.
René Aquarius / John Dikeman / Dirk Serries – Day Realms (Tombed Visions, 2017) ***½
The trio of Dutch drummer René Aquarius, known from the Dead Neanderthals, Serries and Dikeman, who plays here on the tenor sax, has released last year the cassette Night Realms on Tombed Visions. The 42-minutes free-improvised Day Realms, recorded on March 2015 in Gent, Belgium, also released as a cassette plus download option, cements the fiery interplay of the trio.
Throughout Day Realms Serries defines the surprisingly emotional essence of this improvisation and again and again he refuses to surrender to the wild assaults of Dikeman and Aquarius. Serries introduces this piece with soft ripples of his singing electric guitar, answered by the gentle sax of Dikeman and reserved yet pounding drumming of Aquarius. When Dikeman and Aquarius form massive, tough waves that threaten to drown his singing lines, Serries shifts their explosive interplay into a tense, distorted drone, still pierced by the brutal wails of Dikeman and bombastic drumming of Aquarius. When Dikeman and Aquarius burst again with an urgent, rhythmic attack, Serries charges the intense interplay with a subtle, quiet drone, patiently disarm the intensity and colors it with bright nuances. Eventually, Aquarius with an impressive cymbals work and Dikeman with rare, restrained blows, join Serries melodic, sustained loops, all deepening the emotional vein.
Martina Verhoeven & Dirk Serries – Innocent As Virgin Wood (A New Wave of Jazz, 2017) ***
Innocent As Virgin Wood is an exception in this series of releases. The title refers to the purity of wood in sound, feeling and performance. And innocent and virgin it is since here, for the first time on record, Serries exercises his techniques on the acoustic guitar while his partner, Martina Verhoeven – known as a photographer – plays the Steinway grand piano. Serries and Verhoeven have recorded together before with the Dead Neanderthals as the Fantoom quartet (Sluimer, A New Wave of Jazz, 2015), as part of a free-improvised quintet (Live at Zaal 100, Nachtstück Records, 2016) and as a duo, (Citadelic, Nachtstück Records, 2016). On These releases Serries played the electric guitar and Verhoeven played the double bass.
This studio recording from April 2017 suggests a different mode of interplay. An experimental yet highly attentive and intimate improvisation, based on abstract, even microscopic sonic cues that attempt to sketch a new vocabularies for both Serries and Verhoeven . The five-parts free-associative piece does not converge into a cohesive narrative but suggests a loose, minimalist series of hesitant, fragmented ideas, fleeting impressions, subtle clusters of gentle sounds and brief, silent segments. Serries and Verhoeven sound as asking questions about the nature of this challenging and daring improvisation rather than providing any conclusive answers regarding to where this new journey will lead them.” Freejazz Blog