Barre Phillips

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Uzu Review

by Dean McFarlane

Improvised meeting between a paring of contrabass giants, this date finds both players in peak form. Coming on the P.S.F. as it does, the Tokyo label has been home to some of the most challenging music of the '90s, and this 1996 session lives up to all expectations. Phillips is extraordinary, coaxing tones from his upright bass feverishly with a bow for most parts; lulling textured passages give way to percussive explosions, while his Japanese counterpart, Motoharu Yoshizawa, fires away on electric, abetted by electronic effects which he controls via foot pedals. Always lyrical, the permutations of their improv develop in an engaging way throughout; often improvised jazz meetings take time to warm up, but on "UZU" the duo are astute and keep the music engaging from start to finish. Both avant-garde jazz masters of the bass, the duo collectively bring more than 60 years of experience in free improvising to this session, and not a second passes without that being clear. Like Peter Kowald and Barry Guy, they sustain all the subtly of an accompanist even when at center stage as soloist; neither player is afraid to step to the background and reduce his playing down to a whisper -- and on this recording it is often those moments that are the most impressive. When in full swing, the duo's low-end soundworld blooms into a textured array of fluttering harmonics, patient passes, and harrowing growls. This recording emanates energy as the action photos on the sleeve might suggest -- a blur of electric light and the distorted image of two frantic bass bows.

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