Gail Brand / Morgan Guberman

Ballgames & Crazy

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This album is a beautiful surprise. Who could have guessed that the London-based trombonist and the Bay Area vocalist would end up recording together? Gail Brand, a young, free improviser mostly known at this point for her quartet Lunge, and Morgan Guberman, a young improviser with a jazz background and a double bass training, clearly share something special on this album. As a vocalist, Guberman is completely off-the-wall: an all-around performer, he shouts, screams, admonishes, buzzes and drones in a way that brings to mind both Phil Minton and the round-the-corner rambling crazy man. To put it simply, he is all over the place, and he needs someone strong enough to cope with him and convince him to leave some room to his partner. Brand is exactly that person: She masters the scope of extended techniques necessary to rival Guberman's sonic arsenal, she can use her mutes to produce subtly (and occasionally less subtly) vocal-like sounds, and she obviously shares his sense of humor. The trombone has always been the instrument of choice to imitate the human voice (remember those Peanuts cartoons?). It can wail, stutter, burp and moan in convincing ways. That's why the ten pieces presented on Ballgames & Crazy (between five- and 11- minutes in duration) are best described as heated conversations. Imagine the two of them talk in exotic languages, if that helps you get past the initial comical feel of the music -- although Guberman occasionally blurts out an intelligible sequence of words, turning it into a leitmotif, a musical figure of sorts. These conversations between two highly expressive voices are utterly fascinating, refreshingly entertaining, and hold many promises to those who will choose to follow them in their next adventures.

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