THE MILO FINE FREE JAZZ ENSEMBLE – You Will Not Be Pressed To Buy (Volumes One & Two)

Shih Shih Wu Ai

Milo Fine: drum set (bowed cymbals), piano, electronic piano, B flat/alto clarinets; Steve Gnitka: guitar; Viv Corringham: voice, electronics; John O’Brien: cornet, flugelhorn, voice.

Double CD featuring two live sets taped in April and October of 2011, Fine and Gnitka being the common denominators, Corringham and O’Brien the third member – respectively – in the first and second gig.

The April performance investigates the subtlety of dynamics that mostly stay inside the extent of intermediate controllability. Timbral arrangements where Gnitka comps and/or pushes efficaciously, Fine clatters and rolls cleverly and Corringham hiccups, exults and marvels restrainedly, at least until the English vocalist decides to tread an individual path to a somewhat neurotic transcendence replete with dilapidated phrases, sibilant whispers, micro-fart kisses and larynx-straining nuances. As the sound of bowed cymbals shields processed multiplications of Corringham’s soul, the camera turns to a series of fractal compounds evidencing Fine and Gnitka’s attentively respondent reciprocal listening. Not only the formula is refined and complex; it is wholly toothsome, allowing a listener to isolate details and place them in a mechanism of fleeting retentiveness, thus preparing the solid ground for the subsequent phases to “grow within”. A section in “4111T2” – Fine’s piano propagations evocatively broadening what Corringham and Gnitka suggest through ritual chanting and electrically humming cognizance – stands as an illustration of instrumental extemporization which – for a change – is both biologically pure and, aesthetically speaking, radiant. There are several of these vividly resounding dialogues scattered across this excellent set; the minutes elapse and the attention remains, the question “what’s next?” replacing the classic furtive glance at the player’s timer.

The October date – certainly in virtue of the presence of brass and reeds – corresponds to the “Free Jazz” tag a little more, though not decisively as one might think. At the outset things unfurl leisurely yet densely, O’Brien immediately plunging into the rolling vibe generated by Fine’s trademark svelte wrists on the drums and Gnitka’s astute filling of the lower-frequency range via an effective popping-and-buzzing action near the pickups, the amplifier’s tone knobs presumably rotated counter-clockwise to get rid of excessive shrillness. Of particular interest is the clarinet/flugelhorn communication when it happens, the guitar bashfully attempting to pinch and stimulate in a demonstration of instantaneous modesty substantiated by aural wisdom (let me explicit the concept: this release brings out Steve Gnitka’s unassuming bravura like never before). O’Brien always gives the idea of sounding calm and careful, even while articulating passages containing dozens of pitches in a few seconds; Fine’s vision provides the music with indispensable edginess, his improvisational Weltanschauung explicating different aspects of human disquietude but also open to the reception of unanticipated flashes of rumination. Conditions that are felt by musicians and audiences alike, a tendency to “relish the apparently unsuitable” ultimately illuminating a superb interplay. Wholewheat off-the-cuff kernels that won’t be seen heralded in vacuously cool outlets, ever. Pity the stoppage of evolution.

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