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Generate Records


Tripwire is this trio's second album. It has been recorded fourteen months after Top Floor Encounter and consists of excerpts from a handful of concerts and studio sessions held in Berlin and Hamburg at the end of October and beginning of November 2001, while US drummer Jeff Arnal visited his colleagues. The growth, the maturation of the trio is undeniable, even though the three of them probably didn't play together very much in the interval. No matter, this CD-R is two full steps above the first opus. Each player has gone a long way stripping his sound from any non-essential features. Alto sax Lars Scherzberg gets closer to John Butcher's style, letting silence creep in between his squeaks and finely-crafted sprints. Bassist John Hughes seems to have taken a page from the book of Peter Kowald. As for Arnal, his drumming shifts from energy-driven rambles to close-listening shards of events. The trio builds impressive levels of intensity without resorting to volume. Each track is a cutting-edge free improv delight. On three tracks the trio is joined by Dietrich Eichmann, a German pianist who also runs the label Oaksmus (which released the trio’s first CD). Pianist Alberto Braida and clarinetist Giancarlo Locatelli appear on another piece - the dialogue established between the two reed instruments expands Scherzberg's palette. But in the end the best moments happen when the trio is left alone, as in the last track. These three are among the first improvisers to integrate the experiments of Berlin reductionists (Axel Dorner, Burkhard Beins) without turning the idea into dogma. Highly recommended.

François Couture / All Music Guide

Recorded in five different venues in Hamburg and Berlin, the two Americans and one German who make up the Scherzberg/Hughes/Arnal (SHA) trio show here how their music has intensified and adapted in the 18 months since their first CD.
Although drummer Jeff Arnal lives in Brooklyn, bassist John Hughes in Hamburg and alto saxophonist Lars Scherzberg in Berlin, the verdict on this fine disc of improvisations is that they get together often enough to keep the ensemble's sound tight. Not only, that but adding German pianist/New music composer Dietrich Eichmann to the group on three tracks, and Italian pianist Alberto Braida and clarinetist Giancarlo Locatelli on one, opens up new avenues of creativity. Especially stirring are the encounters with Eichmann, whose written music has been performed by symphony orchestras in Lyon and Baden-Baden, and whose Oaksmus label put out Top Floor Encounter, SHA's first disc.
One of those Continental musicians who seems perfectly acclimatized to both through-composed and improvised music -- he's part of another improv trio with Scherzberg -- Eichmann betrays no outward Europeanisms when he plays. Yet Arnal, who has recorded some fine discs stateside with pianist Dan DeChellis, introduces some uncharacteristic Native American-sounding beats on the fourth track, while the saxist rolls out tiny squeaks and daubs of high-pitched quarter notes, and the pianist leavens the entire proceeding with glissandos.
Those Aboriginal tom-tom rhythms also make a momentary appearance on track two, another quartet outing and, at almost 14 minutes, the longest track on the disc. That's not the full extent of the percussionist's conception though, as Arnal adds some undulating cymbal touches in the middle of the tune and ends with some bass drum bomb dropping. An exercise in progressive motion, the instant composition includes tongue slaps, overblowing and aviary exhibitions from the alto saxophonist, what sound like prepared piano vamps from Eichmann, plus Hughes using his bow to pummel the front of his strings. Finally the tune builds up to a pitch of excitement only to expire on a single piano note.
Maybe it's New World energy expressed in Arnal's busy drum work as well, but Locatelli and Braida play much harder, louder and more jazz-like (whatever that means) here then on their duo discs. Certainly the cacophony exhibited when all five musicians play at the same time can't be found in the chamber improv the Italians produce on their own. Here Braida digs into some left-handed accents before he begins stroking the insides of the piano, while Locatelli tries out the chalumeau register to expand his tone, before introducing to air hisses. There's even some unison horn work from Scherzberg and Locatelli at the end.
On their own, SHA have the skills and familiarity to work out the tonal and rhythmic possibilities of different sounds and with different inflections, that range from near-inaudible reed trills up to what could be the sonority of garbage can lids set into percussive motion. Most illustrative is track five, which includes some of the most hushed improvisations of the 70 1/2-minute set. At the start there are resonating variations on a single alto saxophone note held for many seconds at a time, matched with minimal arco bass backing and later some cautious drum rolls that sound as if they were played with the palms rather than sticks. Before the track ends with grating parakeet-like reed warbles, tones have been produced which can't be ascribed to either the bass or the horn.
With expanded personnel and even more cohesiveness in presentation, SHA's second disc is another deluxe improv seminar. It provides renewed emphasis on the talent of the three musicians and the adaptability of their music.

Ken Waxman / Jazz Weekly

Jeff Arnal/Lars Scherzberg/John Hugues + Guests - Tripwire - Generate records
Jeff Arnal/John Dierker/Jonathan Vincent - Spy Satellite - Generate records

Particulièrement actif sur les scènes new-yorkaises, le jeune percussionniste Jeff Arnal nous fait découvrir deux opus parus sur son label Generate Records. Le premier, Tripwire, est un complément à un précédent album (Top Floor Encounter) publié sous le label du pianiste allemand Dietrich Eichmann. Constitué de prises studio et de prises live, cet album reprend le travail effectué par le trio un an plus tôt à Berlin et le développe notamment au niveau de l'utilisation de l'espace sonore. Les trois hommes ont travaillé et joué ensemble à plusieurs reprises, et on ressent une réelle envie de construire des climats propices à toutes les ouvertures possibles. Cette envie de dépasser les champs connus, de décloisonner les structures "classiques" reste le souci majeur de cette formation. Pour cela ils s'emploient à déjouer les pièges habituels de l'improvisation et notamment les redites ou les culs-de-sac en refusant de s'enfermer dans un schéma lissé. Plus de référentiel, plus de recherche d'une esthétique "propre" et consensuelle mais un combat pour faire du son une variable sur laquelle il est possible de piocher les stimuli propices à faire avancer le jeu. On a rarement l'occasion de rencontrer cela chez de jeunes musiciens.
Le second, Spy Satellite, est un trio dans lequel on retrouve, aux côtés du percussionniste, le tumultueux John Dierker aux saxes et Jonathan Vincent au piano. Le jeu accorde une part plus grande à l'affirmation de chaque personnalité. Alternance de jeu vif et plus subtil, cet enregistrement laisse l'impression d'une totale maîtrise de la matière. Les plages plus courtes donnent une dynamique sur laquelle les musiciens s'engouffrent pour donner le meilleur d'eux-mêmes.

Sébastien Moig, JazzoSphère


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