“It is always interesting to discover how different schools of free improvisation adapt to each other and redefine this loose, inclusive art. Amsterdam-based American sax player John Dikeman’s free improvisations are rooted in the legacy of the fiery American free jazz and the volcanic aesthetics of European sax players as Brötzmann; British sax player Colin Webster and drummer Andrew Lisle are coming from a more distinct European school of free improvisation, while Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries has gravitated in recent years from being a master sculptor of power drones to a daring improviser who injects elements of metal and ambient into his free-associative settings.
All are prolific musicians, performing, and recording non-stop and keep collaborating with each other in different, changing formats. Dikeman and Serries collaborated on Live at Le Vecteur Charleroi (Belgium 10/28/2014), as a duo on Cult Exposure (A New Wave of Jazz, 2014 and 2015) and again on Obscure Fluctuations (Trost, 2015) ; Serries and Webster collaborated on Cinepalace (A New Wave of Jazz, 2015); Webster and Lisle keep playing together in different formats and recently released the duo recording Firehouse Tapes on Webster’s Raw Tonk label.
The three new releases of these hard-working musicians offer arresting strategies of collaborative free improvisation.
John Dikeman/ Andrew Lisle / Dirk Serries / Colin Webster – Apparitions (A New Wave of Jazz, 2016) ***½
The quartet of Dikeman, Webster, Lisle and Serries recorded last year a live album, Live at Café OTO, capturing the quartet performance from April 1st, 2015 (Raw Tonk, 2015). Apparitions was recorded a day later at the Sound Savers studio in London, and as all A New Wave of Jazz releases it is a limited-edition vinyl album, with only 240 double-vinyl copies and an outrageous price for a download, €500.
Apparitions, unlike the volatile spirit of Live at Café OTO, stresses a different approach for this set of four collaborative free improvisations. Here the four musicians explore a kind of a slow-cooking interplay, a calm and conversational one. Apparitions begins and ends with the minimalist “I” and “IV”, where all restrain their playing to low whispers, skeletal guitar lines and brushing of the cymbals, building the tension tension patiently and methodically until reaching a brief and fierce climaxes. “II” and “III” up the temperature and emphasize an immediate and edgy free-associative interplay. Serries acts as the backbone of the quartet, sculpting their course with commanding metallic-resonating, economic lines that offer a thematic bridge between the restless sax outbursts of Dikeman and Webster and the sparse and fractured pulse of Lisle.
Kodian Trio – I (A New Wave of Jazz, 2016) ****
Lisle, Serries and Webster reconvened again in October 2015 for another studio recording at the same studio in London, now calling themselves the Kodian Trio. This trio is supposed to be a working group and is already touring the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Again I is a limited-edition vinyl (240 copies with a download price of €500).
The interplay on Kodian Trio debut is much more energetic and experimental than the one explored on Apparitions. Serries and Webster alternate the leading roles, both sounding aggressive and assertive. Serries explores noisy feedback and metallic percussive terrains. Webster attacks and explodes, employing extended breathing techniques blended with dense, fast crys. Lisle avoids the abstract, fractured drumming and colors the improvised texture with inventive, fast-shifting dynamics. All three sound as pushing the sonic envelope to its extreme edges in each of the five improvised pieces.
The last two pieces, “VII” and “III”, are the most focused one. On the first one Webster flirts with a jazzy, Balkan-tinged theme while the latter develops almost like an Indian raga. Beginning with a slow and contemplative introduction of the theme, dispersed into an abstract, searching texture and then gels into a cathartic interplay, where the rough, metallic strumming of Serries collides with the fast sax shouts of Webster and the forceful drumming of Lisle.
John Dikeman / George Hadow / Dirk Serries / Martina Verhoeven / Luís Vicente – Live at Zaal 100 (Nachtstück Records, 2016) ****
This ad-hoc quintet convened on February 2016 in Anderlecht for a studio recording and later played at the Zaal 100 club in Amsterdam, releasing this live recording as name-your-price, download-only album, donating all profits to Unicef. Dikeman plays here the tenor sax, Portuguese Luís Vicente plays the trumpet (both Dikeman and Vicente collaborate also in the Twenty One 4tet that its debut album on Clean Feed was recorded in the same venue), Serries the electric guitar and his partner Martina Verhoeven on the double bass and British, Amsterdam-based George Hadow plays the drums.
The untitled 40-minute piece begins as an urgent and explosive free jazz meeting. The charismatic Dikeman and Vicente take the lead and exchange fleeting ideas, pushed by the driving pulse of Hadow. Still, there is enough enough room for Serries and Verhoeven to shift this energetic interplay of the quintet into a more, nuanced and multi-layered searching mode. Eventually all five musicians gravitate patiently again into a tight and immediate interplay. Dikeman and Vicente still lead, but now Serries and Verhoeven alter the rhythmic basis into a restrained and minimalist drone texture that balance the eruptions of Dikeman and Vicente.” The Free Jazz Collective