Basso brass bliss, the oddly-named Chobraty duo features two left coasters intent on proving that a band consisting of only two low-pitched horns can produce sounds as wide-ranging and flexible as any other configuration.
Significantly, despite some sameness in tone, the veteran improvisers manage to prove that two-part invention impresses, as long as this mixture of composition and improvisation is done with quick reflexes and a perceptive understanding of the other partner.
Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, who composed all the themes here, is a West Coast journeyman who leads his own groups and also lends his slide talents to aggregations led by multi-reedist Vinny Golia and trumpeter Jeff Kaiser among others. Tubaist William Roper also has his own bands and gigged with Golia as well as playing conch shell with the Los Angles Philharmonic. His best-known association is probably with trumpeter Bobby Bradford however.
Throughout the 10 tunes on CHOBRATY – definition unknown – Vlatkovich and Roper use glissandi and portamento links to cement their dual counterpoint. Operating mostly legato, moderato and andante, speedy actions are nearly non-existent. Substituting are polyharmonies and speech-like parlando interface. At the outset, it may appear that the trombonist has a more prominent role. Yet that relates to the higher timbres of his axe, whose trills and slurs we’re accustomed to hear as a lead voice, as opposed to the sonorous pedal point actions of the tuba.
Considering Roper rarely limits himself to repetitive rhythmic accompanist, his grunts and growls are if not in front position, are as necessary for composition elaboration as Vlatkovich’s output, since the two are frequently involved in intertwined improvising. Neither are expected tones much on display here. When involved in a particular passage, for instance, the trombonist often trills and vibrates altissimo textures as if he was manipulating a clarinet reed rather than a slide and valves.
As for the tubaist, while he has perfect command of the grunting reverberations that characterize his instrument’s tone – especially when the duo is playing double counterpoint or in broken octaves – his lumbering brass beast is capable of so much more. Glibly he can slither across the tracks with the gliding gait of a cartoon baddie. Vibrating upwards, he produces alphorn-like timbres, in addition to occasional cornet implications. Back in his expected range he warbles bel canto, like an operatic bass-baritone.
If there is a caveat about CHOBRATY, it’s that by the second half of the program brass fatigue begins to set in. Taken in smaller does, or if you’re a tuba or trombone freak all at once, the CD easily proves its thesis and impresses at the same time. -- Ken Waxman