Mike Khoury


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A surprising number of performers have made use of the album title Horizon, including the Bee Gees, Eddie Rabbitt, and Sun Ra. For Mike Khoury, an avant-garde improviser, the Horizon's perspective is that of a violinist in a trio setting backed by drums and bass. Such instrumentation requires the leader to slice off some serious sides of dripping beef, inviting comparison with glorious recordings in this style by the likes of the Revolutionary Ensemble, the Fourth Way, or even some of Billy Bang's outings. Khoury and associates are recorded live in what sounds like a complete set or at least a continuous chunk of one. Things start off anonymously, as if a phonograph needle had been dropped anywhere in anyone's ordinary life and the happenings then translated into musical terms. This opening piece develops slowly, mostly just revealing the skills of the participants, but then near the end a moment of wonder occurs. Khoury finds a pitch that rings totally true in the space -- and this is a recording with an almost ominous sense of the room where the music was played -- and bassist John Voight responds by soaring high above the violin into his instrument's arco harmonics. The group pauses for the expected congratulations from the audience, having tossed a plank across an important mud puddle. Midway through the six tracks, untitled unless there was some kind of insert that fell out of the simple package, the trio starts casting out ideas that at times border on the silly or frantic, honestly attempting to pile up layers of interaction and sometimes pulling it off. Indistinct singing from someone plays less of a motivating force than the old reliable walking bassline; inevitably the inclusion of more typical musical elements gives the musicians the peace of mind in which to create the gentle rhythmic and melodic movement of the fifth track. Ben Hall's tom-toms provide a superb feel for some of Khoury's best -- although least avant-garde -- playing on the record. Voight pushes hard on the final play, his bass taking the lead role in many instances, building to a terrific climax.