Chris Cutler

2 Gentlemen in Verona

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There is nothing more refreshing than a serious improviser with a wacky sense of humor to compliment his or her innovative sensibilities. In the case of veterans like Chris Cutler and Fred Frith, this is doubly so. This concert from 1999 in Verona is illustrated on the CD sleeve to look like it's an opera, complete with five acts and an encore. What it really is is the pair jamming its asses off in front of an audience who had to be knocked out by what they heard. Cutler plays drums -- both a trap kit and electronic -- and other detritus and Frith plays the living hell out of his electric guitar, "sings," and also uses the kitchen-sink approach wherever necessary. Track marks are allocated here, but the CD is one continuous concert with an encore tagged at the end. The confluence of musics and noise that this pair conjure over 50 startling minutes -- from jazz to rock to noise to no wave to figures from serial music to out-and-out skronk -- is a joyously brash and boisterous cacophony that is almost unparalleled in the circles the duo travel in. Fans of early Swans, Sonic Youth, Glenn Branca, and so on should be looking far more deeply at this work that was improvised and recorded in lurid stereo! The reason? Because these cats make it sound like a hell of a lot of fun to make noise for the sake of making it, to take all music back to its base sound principles and twist and turn them -- and the instruments or materials they're playing -- into other forces for the expression and organization -- however loosely -- of sound. I've seldom heard Frith play with this much abandon, or Cutler push his old partner so hard. Whatever the occasion, it served to make one of the greatest live duet improv recordings ever, and whatever you do, don't let it pass you by.

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