04 trioTrio
Arthur Bull; John Heward; Adam Linson
Ambiance magnetiques AM 229 CD (actuellecd.com)

The title Trio celebrates the special unity of these three improvisers. Nova Scotia-based guitarist Arthur Bull has worked in contexts from folk to free jazz, including the avant-folk Surruralists with Éric Normand. Montrealer John Heward, now 82, is best known as a painter of minimalist abstractions: his drumming, which has led to partnerships with saxophonists Glenn Spearman and Joe McPhee, possesses the same qualities as his paintings – a series of subtle and definitive gestures. Los Angeles-born bassist Adam Linson, about half Heward’s age (Bull is in the middle), has wide experience in European free improvisation alongside esteemed musicians like Evan Parker and Axel Dörner.

Recorded in a stone studio in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, this music has a quality of elemental life. Bull brings something of country blues to it, a vocabulary of bending tones and percussive attacks rather than specific harmonies or rhythms. That helps root the music, contributing to a central stream, an emotional and dynamic continuum, to which Heward and Linson also subscribe. It’s improvised music in which the three are so in tune that it never seems responsive, resembling instead the inevitability, consistency and variegation of water, stone, earth or air.

Given that, there’s still development from piece to piece. There’s a general build in intensity and density as the program progresses: lines become thicker, pitches higher, attacks more percussive; the degree of abstraction grows as it becomes more animated, the notion of a lead voice becomes less appropriate. The absence of ego along with the heightened sense of communion and consistency make this an ideal introduction to improvised music, a kind of folk music of the future.

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