Sublingual Ensemble

As the Cicada Breathes

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As the Cicada Breathes Review

by Fran├žois Couture

The Sublingual Ensemble are not your run-of-the-mill free jazz outfit, even though they may seem to be on paper. This quintet's uniqueness strikes very early in the first piece: the front-stage role of flutes. Elijah Church plays ba-hu, recorder, and whistles, contributing a big chunk of the group's unusual sound. The Sublingual Ensemble is playing democratic free improvisation, and Church is on the same level as the other players, but his choice of instruments (and handling of them) is mainly responsible for that aerial and exotic touch. James Cornish also spends a lot of time on flute, even though he is also credited with cornet, violin, and percussion. Sax player Piotr Michalowski rounds up the wind section. Bassist Rob Crozier occasionally doubles on steel drum or percussion, to add more ingredients to the ethnic percussive melting pot provided by Michael G. Nastos. The music on As the Cicada Breathes has its roots in American free jazz, but all five musicians have obviously been influenced by traditions from various parts of the world. And these roots and influences are wrapped up in a free improvisation context. One immediately thinks of Bill Cole and his dozens of ethnic wind instruments. "Bone People" features some great flute interplay and "Gregor Encounters a Tavern" contains inspired group passages. On the other hand, "A Cicada Tours the Ribcage" takes a long time to take off. The listening level among players is not always up to the standards that make or break free improv, in that piece and in sections of the other tracks. Still, As the Cicada Breathes is an honest effort and it certainly offers something different.

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