The American trio Kuzu – sax player Dave Rempis, guitarist Tashi Dorji and drummer Tyler Damon, was touring the South and Midwest of the United States in March 2020, when it became apparent that the world was on the brink of a crisis unknown to humanity for almost exactly a century. During this short tour, the overall feeling changed quickly from one of anxiety to one of impending doom. By the time Kuzu arrived at the Elastic Arts, its home base in Chicago, it was clear that this performance would be one the last ones any of them would perform for quite some time. A few days later, United States was in full lockdown.
But «All Your Ghosts In One Corner», Kuzu’s fifth recording in three years, is not about impending fear. Kuzu finds redemption its the intense, life-affirming energy, reflecting a strong will to survive. This live recording captures the last performances in this tour at the Elastic Arts and at The Sugar Maple in Milwaukee, wrapped in unsettling, raw emotion; a moment of friends bidding farewell for who-knows-how-long.
Some hints of these agonizing emotions can be traced in the opening piece «One Fell Swoop», with its rare, sparse, introspective and melancholic atmosphere. But already on this piece, you can sense the impossible spectrum of musical expressions that define Kuzu, from doom metal, through the brutal and uncompromising onslaughts of Peter Brötzmann to the spiritual jazz of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders with many unpredictable detours between. The following three-part, 39-minute «Scythe» demonstrates faithfully this approach, with its raw, manic and hyper-intense but also focused and tenacious dynamics. This piece captured perfectly the depth of the abyss which we all faced but served like a spontaneous and inspired ritual for Kuzu’s community of followers, ready to embrace the upcoming storm. There are few brief segments of healing sax blows, soft, resonant guitar lines and gentle bells throughout this piece, but true to Kuzu spirit, it ends with a cathartic, explosive coda. The last piece, «The Year of the Rat» (and 2020 was such a year in the Chinese zodiac) suggests another variation on Kuzu tight and scorching dynamics, more open, still propelled with a manic drive but with many soulful sax cries.
Kuzu’s ghosts may not beat the pandemic but would guarantee you enough powers to climb out of the troubling abyss of these times.
Dave Rempis (as, ts, bs), Tashi Dorji (g), Tyler Damon (dr)