John Dikeman is an American saxophonist living in Amsterdam, who plays barefoot and often invites comparison with Peter Brötzmann, which can be a backhanded compliment. A recent clutch of albums all demonstrate that, while he’s clearly chasing an accommodation with Brötzmann’s legacy and influence he’s no copycat, being too versatile and tuneful to swallow the rather cartoonish idea of Brötzmannian Machine Gun machismo that does neither artist any favours.
Of the three albums I’m reviewing, Live at La Resistenza makes that point best, teaming Dikeman as it does with two of Brötzmann’s longstanding collaborators to rather ebullient effect. The other two—Dikeman Noble Serries Trio Skullduggery and Dikeman Serries Lisle Webster Live at Cafe Oto—are more abrasive and exploratory.
Live at La Resistenza (El Negocito) was recorded in a Belgian club in May 2014, eleven months before the saxophonist’s dates with Serries and co.. William Parker and Hamid Drake are, no doubt, one of the finest rhythm teams extant. Dikeman is duly deferential in his liner notes, but sounds unfazed on lead piece “Gratitude”, playing as he does with emotional, often inflammatory eloquence. In fact he sounds particularly comfortable here, and it’s no surprise that the trio has since reconvened for more live dates.
Parker and Drake are buoyant throughout, locked together in apparently effortless, freewheeling time. Dikeman sits out as they segue straight into more introspective terrain on the second title, “Invocation”, then voices soothing and burnished textures amid more typical passages of proselytization, exploring other facets of intensity.
The whole set flows freely, with a concise bass solo and a rhythm duet bridging to “Bad Uncle John!”, where Dikeman swaps tenor for alto sax, alternating grizzled drizzling with lyrical licks and scalar runs into outfield. Parker’s springiness perfectly compliments the crispness of Drake’s stickswork, and in turn the drummer’s polyrhythmic attack energises the bassist’s melodious thump: the two ebbing and flowing through rhythms and intensities in dynamic communion.
By the time “WY Funk” rolls around, Dikeman has burnt off many degrees of rawness, and is clearly ready to engage with an extra degree of playfulness that’s crept into his bandmates’ workout. He takes up their implicit urging through songlike thematics, essaying uncommonly lyrical licks and variations.
All in all, Live at La Resistenza is a supremely musical date, and almost as exhilarating on record as it must have been live.
John Dikeman alto & tenor saxophones; William Parker bass; Hamid Drake drums.
Dikeman Noble Serries Trio – Obscure Fluctuations + Dikeman Serries Lisle Webster – Live at Cafe Oto.
Cactus Truck – Seizures Palace.
Mikko Innanen with William Parker and Andrew Cyrille – Song for a New Decade.
Evan Parker Sant’Anna Arresi Quintet (feat. Hamid Drake) – Filu ‘e Ferru.
Buy Live at La Resistenza direct from El Negocito.