|All compositions by Thomson, Freedman - Socan. Recorded and mixed by Jean Martin at the Farm Studio's, Tronto ON. Mastered by John Oswald. Art by David Hannan.
The external details of the three sessions that produced Plumb, the first CD of duet and solo pieces from the Montreal clarinetist Lori Freedman and Toronto trombonist Scott Thomson, are unremarkable enough, if perhaps quaintly so. Freedman and Thomson stood facing each other across a low baffle and over a pair of microphones at The Farm, Jean Martin’s west-end Toronto loft/studio, a living space defined for recording purposes by a work table laden with Martin’s computers on one side and by comfortable couches on two others, with a gallery of marionettes and plush monkeys looking on quizzically from shelves against the surrounding walls.
Freedman and Thomson said almost nothing before each of their improvisations and very little after. No “How about...” or “Let’s try...” The marionettes and monkeys kept their thoughts to themselves, as did, generally speaking, the friends that the two musicians invited to listen in on the last of the three afternoons.
The proof of the music, they all seemed to realize, would be in the playback. That’s where the internal details are; that’s where things get really interesting, where – as Cecil Taylor has been known to say – the stuff is.
Freedman and Thomson are no strangers to the one-to-one of the improvised duet. Freedman has been half of Queen Mab with pianist Marilyn Lerner since 1992, and Thomson an equal partner in JOUST with alto saxophonist John Oswald more recently. Their paths in free improvisation – Freedman’s from New Music and Thomson’s more tangentially from jazz – first crossed in Toronto in 2006.
They share a love of those internal details, of the many sounds that are inside one sound – the timbres, textures and overtones that can be drawn out on their own through the liberal application of mutes, multiphonics and, most of all, imagination. Only once on Plumb, in the first of the Two Plums, do the two musicians use their instruments in a relatively conventional manner, otherwise preferring to explore all of the usual “extended” techniques, plus a few more of their own devising, and to do so with a folksy sort of virtuosity – amiable, agreeably unpretentious and without the patented sheen of the conservatory.
Initially, theirs may seem like a small, narrow world of sound, one further compressed by the dry, unadorned space that Jean Martin, as recording engineer, has left around it. But this is a world that quickly develops its own adjusted scale of small and large, soft and loud – a new dynamic, unique to Freedman and Thomson, that accommodates the dramatic and strident as readily as it does the humourous and the lyrical. (In the matter of humour, note also the interrelated word play in the titles of the CD and its nine tracks. Consult your favourite dictionary as required.) Sometimes the two musicians play together in opposition, sometimes in empathy, sometimes in self-absorption, always in the spirit of discovery and revelation. – Mark Miller, Toronto, October 2007