Relative Pitch

Release number 100 for Relative Pitch, suitably celebrated with an exhilarating piano/drums duo. John Blum was discovered by yours truly only ten years ago, a culpable delay. Nothing has changed in this writer’s enthusiastic admiration of a pianism at once explosive and cultured. The studies with selected masters of free jazz can be identified in Blum’s every gesture, his personality continuing to evolve on the same basis: stylistic emancipation warranted by a total control of the technique, the uncommon ability of processing and developing instantaneous musical thoughts into rational improvisations. Jackson Krall is both a drummer and a drum builder, which implies a knowledge of the smallest particles of each component, and the awareness of the instrument’s response to a given action. The man’s resume is impressive, comprising such names as Cecil Taylor, Joe Morris and Steve Swell. Krall and Blum are habitual collaborators, although this is their first recording; the reciprocal familiarity is perceived throughout.

Consisting of two tracks recorded live in the studio without any preamble, Duplexity strikes right away with a series of lightning-fast interchanges, with very rare moments of rest (so to speak; actually there’s not a second of actual peace). Blum provides furious arpeggios and breakneck contrapuntal designs with the vehemence of a waterfall whose refractions spread in myriads of droplets. However, he also builds a strong skeleton in those on-the-spot harmonic conceptions: not exclusively flying all over the keyboard but affirming, stating, nailing intuitions to our brain. This renders the listeners able to discern exact shapes at any time. Krall skillfully parallels his companion’s evolutions and eruptions; he subtracts where needed, rolls compulsively at peak hours, breaks tempos unpredictably as Blum hits with an attitude halfway through “Stravinsky addict with quick foreknowledge” and “radical anarchist”. At the end of the set one immediately feels like going for a new ride. Picture children just off a roller coaster, their eyes wide open, overexcitement accompanying them until it’s home, home again.

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