Balance of Power

Damon Short

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Balance of Power Review

by Michael G. Nastos

As is the stance of improvising musicians, percussionist Damon Short and multi-woodwindist Paul Scea have many options open to them, and they take full advantage. Ten of the 14 selections are duets, two are vibes solos from Short, the other two have bass trumpeter Ryan Shultz joining in. Only two have writer's credits, the rest are spontaneous compositions. Scea's flute work is most arresting, whether on the more vocally dominated "Zero Language Generation," in the utter beauty of Short's bowed vibes on the sea breeze-ish "Beaches," or the skittish flute-vibes duo in "Collapsible Coordinates," all definite highlights. Bowed cymbals inspire Scea's soprano sax to an otherworldly tone during "Breath of Antarctica," assimilating an organ-like vibrato burst, a sound on that instrument rarely heard. On bass clarinet for "Arachnophobia," Scea unsuspectingly crawls around Short's vibes, while on a more solemn-sounding tenor sax, the two get into a little swing for Scea's piece "Impending Downpour." The three selections "Home Improvement," "Homage," and "Village Politics" segue quickly, acting like a suite. Short's patient drum kit notes are accented by Scea playing piano strings, moving to overblown flute meditations over Short's bowed cymbals, then a vibes-wood flute combo, sending signals across vast flat terrain for all to interpret. The title track, written by Short, is free bop induced, Scea again on tenor. Shultz's two pieces have his and Scea's tenor grumbling, Short's drums cackling during "MLC," while the bass trumpet and tenor's stealth underpinnings offset Short's inquisitive piano for a standout "Drop That Name." Short's two vibes solos have a similar hyperactive quality, "2WD1" starts shimmering then boils with boppish adages, "Wahzo 3" bounces off the walls like a superball on acid. The feeling of freedom is ever present in this recording that takes cues from avant expressionism, clearly defined in a wide variety of ways and means by its contemplative participants. Recommended.

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