Matt Turner: The Mouse That Roared
Matt Turner (cello)
Michael Bisio & Eyvind Kang: MBEK
Michael Bisio (bass}, Eyvind Kang (violin)
Matt Turner puts a lot of energy into these seven improvisations, recorded live way back in 1997 and only now seeing the light of day on the new (and already impressive) Meniscus label. His style incorporates many of the so-called "extended techniques" you'd expect to see at a contemporary cello festival (where this ig took place), but structured in rather direct ways, with none of the disregard for large-scale forms which is so common in improvised music.
Not that this music seems to be governed by actual large forms of any kind; it's just that it proceeds in an orderly fashion, developing an idea and then moving away from it and into a new area with deliberate clarity. The almost discurive quality of these pieces makes tham very accessible, and they're certainly imaginative and enjoyable. Still, there's a little something missing, and at times it feels a like avant improv by numbers. Many listeners will enjoy this record, but few will find it truly arresting in the way that less genteel improv can be.
Turner would almost certainly fare better with other musicians, where their surprise interventions wold disturb what sounds like a mind with an inclination towards tidiness, and what he would produce in such a setting might be very good indeed. Certainly the duo of Bisio and Kang hit some stratospheric highs on their CD, Mbek. Kang will be known to many readers as a violinist of ecclectic but always excting vision, a young player who will only become better-known in future years; the lesser-known Bisio turns out to be something of a force of nature on the bass, and the two together make fearsome music.
Although the highlight of their album is the first track, a soaring, unashamedly Romantic piece called Seraphic Light, there are plenty of great moments and throughout. Kang's interest in musics from around the world comes across many times over, and Bisio sounds interested and educated enough to follow him, although he generally seems to prefer surging around arco, creating a truly vast sound from the bass through which Kang effortlessly slices.
Inevitably, there are bits which falter, floundering around trying to get back on track. That's in the nature of improvisation, and while Turner avoids these and turns in a performance of great coherence, he does seem to lack for a partner to make things a little more dangerous and throw down a few challenges. That's just the sort of thing Bisio and Kang do well together, and the results are excellent.