Wisdom in Time

[Intakt Records, www.intaktrec.ch]

In the liner notes to the latest duo opus from trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and percussionist Gunter Baby Sommer, Oliver Schwerdt points out the lack of a great body of work by this sort of instrumental line-up. To my mind, the most successful was the body of work eschewed by Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley on the two volumes of Papyrus [Soul Note] dating back to late 90's. Since that time, I can't recall a single trumpet-percussion duo that has stopped me dead in the tracks. In comes Intakt to the rescue with a release that is as satisfying as it is bound to become legendary. Recorded over two days last May in a small Swiss studio, the pair has not played together on a regular basis since early 80's, when their regular gigs and records with the late bassist Peter Kowald were a thing of legends. Their reunion at 2005's Total Music Meeting in Berlin [Barre Phillips sat in for Kowald] brought them together again. Their brief tour in May last year cemented their bond and gave perfect opportunity for this record to come about. Some good things never change. If you recall the atmosphere and musical language created on "Touch the Earth - Break The Shells", you won't be disappointed by this disc. Minus Kowald, the duo retains its vibrant edge, while playing loosely. Confidence still reigns supreme. This isn't just some jam session. This is the real deal. While Smith plays lots of vibrant melodies, best thing about his style is he knows when to take it down a notch or two. It's the quiet, repetitive phrases [oftentimes, just soft whispers] that get top marks. All the while, Sommer's innovation lays in his ability to hold back. Never does he attack his drum set with full fury or abandon. His golden moments come when he too uses the minimal use of percussion to get maximum effect. Just a roll on the snare or a gentle tap on the tom is all it takes for the duo to get rolling and back into action. Smith has rarely sounded better on flugelhorn than he does here. His hollers are revealing and gently persuasive. Even though Smith uses some electronics on a few of the tracks, he never utilizes these to their fullest. Rather, they're used as sparse dashes of colouring. Ultimately, duo speaks a language that is uniquely their very own. Take away Peter Kowald and the house of cards still stands strong.

- Tom Sekowski

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