13 CafeCafé Grand Abyss
Jon Rose; Alvin Curran
ReR Megacorp ReRJRAC (rermegacorp.com) 

Busman’s holidays for American pianist Alvin Curran and Australian violinist Jon Rose; the two navigate a program of improvisations that also reference Curran’s experiments with electronics and Rose’s habit of stretching the fiddle’s expected characteristics for offbeat music-making.

Both are possessed of a sardonic sense of humour. For instance, they end the disc with a brief singing saw-and-keyboard-clipping variant on Tea for Two and precede that with a pseudo-blues, where at every turn, wide multi-string violin squeaks burlesque the jittery piano syncopation beside it. But this café’s main courses are extended duets, where amplified tenor violin sweeps expose unexpected techniques answered succinctly by keyboard colours plus wave-form drones or sampled sounds.

Curran exhibits percussion backing, brass-like pumps, electronic wiggles, and sampled vocals and music on Benjamin at the Border, without neglecting consistent piano note patterns. These merge with Rose’s kinetic glissandi and hoedown-like patterns that complement the exposition while mocking the pianist’s few lapses into romanticism. Dramatically intriguing, The Marcuse Problem is built upon thickening a narrative constructed from angled fiddle runs and keyboard clinking to reach such a level of echoed intensity that it appears the pressure can’t be further amplified – and then it is. Finally the theme is deconstructed, leading to an appealing conclusion.

Recorded in sessions two years apart in Rome and Sydney where each musician lives, the CD’s stimulating duo program should encourage the two to collaborate more frequently.

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