You may think that this is an unlikely match. Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler, former Amsterdam resident and now Copenhagen-based, is known for her rich and complex, always elegant and refined modern jazz compositions that correspond with contemporary music and European folk traditions. Dutch guitarist and label owner Terrie Ex (aka Terrie Hessels), founder of The Ex who began his musical career before Draksler was born, is the complete opposite. He is an unpredictable free radical, a Dadaist anarchist at heart and in his music, always ready – literally – to beat with his battered Guild guitar any convention, genre or style. But sometimes opposites attract and do make some eccentric sense.
But beyond the clear differences Draksler and Ex are experienced and versatile improvisers and highly imaginative ones, who clearly developed a mutual trust each and do share a common understanding about the need to take risks and bend expectations. Accordingly, «The Swim», captured at London’s Café OTO in 2018, surprises with its reserved atmosphere, far from the notion of explosive, free-improvised power. Draksler and Ex employ their instruments as abstract sound generators, with many objects and toys attached to their instruments, and both sketch with their extended instruments fragile but fascinating textures. The sounds that both Draksler and Ex produce are delicate but spiky, bringing to mind manic clattering of pots and pans, scratching of the floor, buzzing static, distant ringtones, and even weirder sounds. But throughout this chaotic and anarchist sounding recipe a strong musical bond is solidified. They even end the first piece «Strel» with a playful, gentle note.
This 43-minutes stresses a total freedom and not only the freedom to manipulate the sounds of the piano and the electric guitar but also freedom from a clear form, narrative and obviously, freedom from any need to stretch melodic lines. The piano becomes an instrument that produces exotic and gentle, resonant-percussive and string instrument sounds while the guitar generates strange noises that are quite seductive. All that may sound at first as unnatural becomes organic and surprisingly very natural, and all sounds ignite many colorful and vivid associations. Draksler and Ex know how to build and release tension and how to tell quite a wild story.
Guy Peters, who contributed insightful liner notes, is totally right when he calls it «the sound of liberation». Once again, true free improvisation erases differences of age, gender, nationality or cultural backgrounds and proves to be one of the most subversive forms of art.
They are playing at Klub Primi in Copenhagen tomorrow (the 25th) as the last band at the club for this Vinterjazz. And I say this only once: Be There!
Kaja Draksler (p, toys); Terrie Ex (g, objects)