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«2 + 2 – 2 + 2 with Jen Baker & Liz Allbee»

American, California-based alto and baritone sax player Jon Raskin (of ROVA Saxophone Quartet fame) and alto and tenor sax player Phillip Greenlief formed their 2 + 2 project in 2003 as a container for revolving quartet formations, where they paired their saxes with other like instruments. Raskin and Greenlief worked before as a sax duo – 1 + 1  – playing free improvisation, their own compositions and the music of their mentors like Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Frank Gratkowski, Pauline Oliveros, Christian Wolff and Steve Lacy.

2+2 played with master double bass players Barre Phillips and Mark Dresser, with the brass players, trumpeter Nate Wooley and tubist Dan Peck, vocal artists Aurora Josephson and Claudia La Rocco, among many others. These modular and nomadic meetings allowed Raskin and Greenlief to develop a practice of composing for free improvisers, suggesting thematic, harmonic and rhythmic activity

2 – 2 + 2 with Jen Baker & Liz Allbee – with trombonist Baker (who collaborated with ROVA) and trumpeter Albee (who played in Raskin Quartet, now resides in Berlin) was recorded in 2006 (and released on Greenlief’s Evander Music label) and like all meetings in this self-curated series feature a mixture of free improvisations and graphic scores by Greenlief and Raskin. This reeds and brass quartet explores resonating timbral possibilities of their instruments and its conversational interplay is organic and immediate but not shy of dissonant collisions.

The main piece is the 20-minute «Night Town», introduced by Albee’s gentle solo trumpet which tells a dramatic, emotional story. Later, Raskin and Grrenlief enjoy a minimalist but contemplative and expressive sax talk, gravitating towards a quiet, meditative tone when Albee and Baker join and all explore their own extended breathing techniques and distinct multiphonics to color this piece with intriguing sounds and conclude this complex, cinematic piece with a peaceful coda. This album ends with the playful and intense «2 +2», cementing the rare musical imagination of these gifted musicians-improvisers.

While listening to this brilliant meeting you may wonder what other gems are still hidden in the archives of Raskin and Greenlief.

Eyal Hareuveni

Liz Allbee (trumpet), Jen Baker (trombone), Phillip Greenlief (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone), Jon Raskin (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone)

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