|One Final Note Review European and American improvisers enjoy a rich tradition of cross-pollination. The bridging of the geographic gap posed by the Atlantic Ocean is a daily occurrence as musicians from both sides regularly convene on either shore. Mazzola and Geisser, two Swiss citizens who make frequent forays to the States to play with their American counterparts, are regularly members of this ongoing collaborative exodus. Both men are classically trained and highly versed in the art of free improvisation. Maneri and Fields are similarly adept in this arena and on the basis of their reputations were conscripted by the co-leaders to take part in what is ostensibly a team effort.
A minimum of premeditated referents and four pairs of open ears are the principle elements in the interchange of extemporaneous ideas. Fields receives the shortest straw in the audio draw, his muffled arpeggiations sometimes buried in the balance of instruments. Maneri's scythe-like bow adds sharp harmonic twists against Mazzola's stuttering clusters and Geisser's traps work frequently as an accentuating agent to the ensemble sound. The opening "Omniverse" starts in piecemeal fashion as the players examine and discard various elements both individually and en mass. Solos are collective rather than discrete and rare are the instances when a player is heard in isolation. "Chronos" ticks onward like a clock being wound, rising in dissonance and volume on a wave of Fields' amplified feedback. Maneri shapes nebulous lines above a terrain of busily propulsive drums and worried pianistics and the piece seems to dart in a dozen directions at once. It's these shorter opening pieces that fare better than the longer, more involved errands that follow them. "Zodiac" and the title track bend perilously close to excess over the course of their respective time spans and, while each harbors numerous passages of spirited exchange, the overall effect is of a culinary dish left too long in the oven. The latter opens quietly and after a period of adjustment the quartet settles into a protracted and cooperative investigation of muted tones and textures. "Heliopolis" is louder and more frenetic, filled with bursts of energy and galvanic release. Closing with the curiously titled "Xoltl", the four dive once more into the communal hot spring of heated improvisation and chart a myriad of currents.
In the final count this meeting of European and American constituents sizes up as a somewhat flawed enterprise and begs the question, what would these four have come up with had they afforded themselves more time for familiarity and preparation? Still, much of the music on hand is undeniably exciting and points to the efficacy of free collective improvisation as a means of facilitating and even mandating on-the-spot agreement and conceptual malleability. By every indication Mazzola and Geisser's sallies to American soil are frequent. Future collaborations will no doubt illustrate further the firm stock they take in testing their wits with other States-born improvisers.