Recorded seven months after the Emergency String Quartet's debut CD, Hill Music, On the Corner (Market and Sixth) sees the group expand to a quintet with the addition of viola player Jonathan Fretheim. Violinist Kevin Van Yserloo has also stepped in to replace original member Tom Swafford. Jeff Hobbs (violin), Bob Marsh (cello), and Damon Smith (double bass) round up this Bay Area free improvising group. String ensembles (be they quartets or quintets) have rarely tackled the improv idiom, whereas saxophone quartets are aplenty. Why? Maybe it has to do with the fact that in a string ensemble, individual contributions are difficult to isolate -- they lose themselves in the "greater good" that is the group sound. That's what happens here, especially with a bass player like Smith, who's not shy about using the full range of his instrument. Recorded in a single one-day session during December 2001, this album (a CD-R released by Public Eyesore) doesn't match the intensity and quality of Hill Music, but it still has its moments. "Dancing in the 21C" and the concluding "Nocturne" feature some great interplay. Five minutes into the title track, things come to a gentle stop before being set into motion again. These exciting moments are offset by bland passages. If the mind wanders a bit during listening to this album, it still holds enough interest to be worthy of your time. It only lacks that extra spice that would make it stand out.
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