John Russell

Three Planets

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AllMusic Review by

This is simply one of the most striking projects John Russell has been involved in. Brought together by Emmanuelle Pellegrini for the Densité 2001 festival, this trio "clicked" and carried on, turning what was meant to be a one-shot meeting into one of the most distinctive trios of late. Most of the credit for the group's uniqueness goes to accordionist Ute Völker. Still misunderstood in free improvisation, her instrument here sounds crisp, rich, and full of possibilities. Her playing complements Russell's frantic guitar picking to a stunning level. Like Alfredo Costa Monteiro, she manages to find a voice for her instrument without resorting to references to folk music or entertaining shticks. And without distilling her playing down to abstract, disembodied clicks and crack, she interacts fully with her partners and unveils an engrossing range of tones, sounds and textures. Russell is in top shape, fully engaging the music, every note more relevant than the previous one, especially in "Pachyderm's Canon," where the whole piece seems to emanate from his guitar, so close-knit are the moves of his two partners. The young violinist Mathieu Werchowski (30-years-old when this session was recorded) also makes an impressive debut on the Emanem label. His feverish bowing and his taste for choosing the atonal textures that just sound "right" flag him as an improviser to keep an ear on (and the spiritual son of Phil Durrant). Three Planets is definitely not your usual free improv trio session. Besides the instrumentation, one finds in this album a rare level of vitality and invention. Possibly one of the best records of free improvisation in 2004. Highly recommended.

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