Sonore – Cafe OTO/London

Sonore is an international all-reeds trio, with Peter Brötzmann on tenor and alto sax, clarinet and tárogató; Ken Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet; and Mats Gustafsson on baritone sax.

Since they often perform in support of Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, Sonore might be considered an offshoot of the bigger band, with Brötzmann as de-facto bandleader, particularly since both the trio and the bigger band pool compositional resources (this set, released on Trost, was recorded during an April 2011 Tentet residency at Cafe OTO). Yet there’s a tacit acknowledgement that though the trio’s material arguably carries more of Brötzmann’s musical DNA than anyone else’s, everyone here has an equal voice.

While it’s standard practice where possible to distribute royalties to assign individual credits for group improvisations, in this case I suspect that Vandermark, Gustafsson and Brötzmann actually did compose the individual tracks that bear their names. Certainly the brief “Fragments for an Endgame” bears all of the hallmarks of Vandermark’s thoughtful, intricate compositional style, while “(I Was Arranging Her) Arms” is constructed from the brawny, short-breath sonic blocks that perfectly suit Gustafsson’s baritone. Of course, that style also suits Brötzmann, whose main solo burrows into the composition like a rock drill, but at 15:30 this is the longest track here by far, which allows plenty of room for expressivity.

Brötzmann’s own credited track, “Le Chien Perdu” (if nothing else, I think it’s safe to assume that whoever gets the credit named the track) is, perhaps surprisingly, the most delicate track on the album. As it draws to a conclusion, with Brötzmann and Vandermark engaged in a clarinet dialogue, Gustafsson momentarily lays out, allowing the lighter reeds to build a frenetic argument from the initially pensive exchange of ideas. On rejoining he adds some simple low-end counterpoint, and then pitches right in at the top of his deep horn’s register to marshal the discourse to a satisfying resolution.

The group-credited set-closer “OTO” begins with all three reedsmen pitching sounds into play before latching on to the most promising for development. Again, the breath-long phrase length all three players favour allows them to construct a robust dialog around interlocking blocks of sound. Ultimately the trio shies away from the easy option of a cathartic collective blowout, instead ending with a beautifully resolved melodic figure.

The album as a whole is remarkable for its melodiousness, and for its subtleties and sheer musicality it is one I will certainly play far more often than, say, the short but less successful 2009 Sonore set from the 3 Nights in Oslo box.

I was fortunate to be among the audience for the Brötzmann Tentet’s OTO residency, and it’s perhaps a pity that a similar set wasn’t compiled from them. Still, it’s nice to have my initial impression that Sonore were on particularly good form that night so richly confirmed.

Related Posts
Full Blast & Friends: Sketches and Ballads
Peter Brötzmann ADA Trio at Cafe OTO, February 2012

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