American cellist Fred Lonbeg-Holm, known from countless free jazz and free-improvised ensembles, has recorded himself playing solo in different locations – studios, concert halls, outdoors, and at various homes, he has lived in. But the Studio Namouche in the Benfica neighborhood of Lisbon where he recorded «Lisbon Solo» is his favorite one. Lonberg-Holm describes this studio as «a magical place… a faded version of its once probably grand self, Namouche is a sort of small RCA studio A that somehow survived the tumults of the recording industry».
Such a perfect environment allowed Lonberg-Holm to dig deeper into his intimate relationship with his cello, an instrument described by him as a «four-string busy box» and now serves also as a «safe place» for him. He truly believes that if he will follow the cello, «nothing can go wrong». Furthermore, Lonberg-Holm thinks of his solo improvisations as «an act of faith… a kind of non-denominational devotional music».
Lonberg-Holm adds that during the period when «Lisbon Solo» was recorded he was listening to works of American composer Alfred Reed, and experimented with tuning his cello down at a lower pitch as possible. The album was recorded live in March 2019, and Lonberg-Holm also improvises on one of the derelict pianos at the Namouche Studios. «The juxtaposition of a derelict instrument and an incompetent pianist in a great room with excellent equipment was simply too good to pass up».
Obviously, Lonberg-Holm employs a variety of extended bowing techniques, conjures a barrage of multiphonics, and interweaves adventurous timbral excursions. He alternates between struggling and courting the cello, and between being totally possessed by the power of this «busy box» of strings, and a refusal to surrender to its sonic limitations. A life-long, persistent, always insightful yet troubling dialog with the cello. The ten untitled improvisations radiate a kind of almost spiritual refining of Lonberg-Holm’s deep, personal relationship with the instrument. He channels and distills his extensive experience to the most essential, in an honest, sober and unpretentious manner that still sparks with the initial innocence and passion to discover new, fascinating sounds.
«Lisbon Solo» may not suggest the cello you have been begging for but it is certainly the kind of cello you will need in order to understand the fine, cathartic art of playing in the moment.
Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, unprep.p)