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«spi-raling horn»
«The Cold Arrow»

The mutual admiration of legendary pianist Marilyn Crispell and double bass master Damon Smith of iconoclastic visual artist Cy Twombly. Smith began to conceptualize the music of a quartet with Crispell, bass clarinetist Jason Stein and drummer Adam Shead, resulting in two

concerts and a recording at Palisade Studio in Chicago in June 2019. The cover art is, obviously, by Twombly (and Smith used Twombly art for Spill Plus, his album with Magda Mayas and Tony Buck, BPA, 2014, and his albums with guitarist Keith Rowe and Sandy Ewen, Houston 2012, BPA, 2021). spi-raling horn documents the studio date as it happened, with the album’s tracks sequenced in the order in which the quartet recorded them, leaving nothing on the cutting room floor.

The seven free improvised pieces, with their poetic titles, stress the imaginative manner in which Crispell enriches the intense dynamics of the working trio of Stein, Smith and Shead, who already recorded two albums (Volumes & Surfaces, BPA, 2022 and Hum, Irritable Mystic, 2023). Her pin-point rhythmic accuracy and constant harmonic motion push for fiery, ecstatic performances on the opening pieces «a song paid by singing» and «a universe of otherwise». But on «the ground laid open» Crispell and Stein introduce a more intimate but still dense dialog, followed by a like-minded dialog of Smith and Shead before the whole quartet unites for a sparse coda. The quartet expands these poetic, stripped-down and melancholic veins on the following «saturant moon water» and «so close it cut my ribs». The last two pieces of this brilliant album, «back and back out» and «a rusted bell’s clank», mark a full return to the non-idiomatic, cathartic and rhythmically complex aesthetics of the opening pieces.

The Cold Arrow is the sophomore album of the unique, free improvisation trio of Argentina-born, New York-based clarinetist (and graphic artist and art and architecture historian) Guillermo Gregorio with generation-younger double bass player Smith and percussionist (and painter) Jerome Bryerton (who plays here on gongs, cymbals and metal surfaces), following Room of the Present (Fundacja Słuchaj!, 2021, inspired by the remarkable art and ideas of Hungarian painter-photographer László Moholy-Nagy, 1895–1946). The album was recorded at Birdcloud Studios in Collinsville, Illinois in September 2022.

Gregorio’s improvisational art touches on the art and architecture of Constructivism, in which abstract units relate to one another in a spatial-temporal dynamic, potentialities commingling with situational gravity. Smith is committed to post-war abstract art from a variety of perspectives, all linked by committed intensity, and has augmented his double bass with objects and preparations that display the influence of European improvisers like Barry Guy or Joëlle Léandre as well as Fluxus composer Ben Patterson. Bryerton’s canvases show the influence of Cy Twombly or Gerhard Richter and the tear-away collages of paper, ink, and glue that one sees on decommissioned billboards. The Cold Arrow corresponds with the distinct art conceptions of Gregorio, Smith and Bryerton. It transforms the chamber, often abstract and enigmatic improvisations into instant compositions, except for two pre-composed pieces by Gregorio. As music writer Clifford Allen mentions in his line notes, this trio creates thoughtful and elegant experiential play in sonic architecture and painting, «a dynamism much like the tension exhibited between the shape of stretched canvas and the image/object occupying that canvas, or the daily use of a complex built structure».

Eyal Hareuveni

Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Marilyn Crispell (piano), Damon Smith (double bass), Adam Shead (drums), Guillermo Gregorio (Bb clarinet, A clarinet), Jerome Bryerton (Paiste bronze series gongs, selected meta, cymbals)