** 2021 Stock ** A truly unique duo album of sax and drums from Chicago reedist Mars Williams and Spanish percussionist Vasco Trilla, using their immense technical skills to pivot reflective and meditative playing around exuberant free jazz spirit, maintaining a sense of journey and sonic introspection through unusual and extended technique; a beautifully balanced album.
"Both American reedman Mars Williams and Spanish percussionist Vasco Trilla show themselves well grounded in the duet configuration, although this appears to be only Williams' second documented encounter in the sole company of a drummer. For Trilla, the situation is more normal. His track record embraces pairings with a wide array of wind instrumentalists (as well as brass and strings), including Mikolaj Trzaska, Martin Kuchen and Yedo Gibson. Although they hail from different backgrounds as well as continents-Williams also plays with rock band Psychedelic Furs and acid jazz outfit Liquid Soul, as well as power trios with Paal Nilssen-Love and had tenure in the early Vandermark 5 and Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, while Trilla's pedigree lies in European improv engagements-the empathy in evidence throughout this Barcelona studio date from May 2019 speaks of a solid connection. One of the most resourceful of European percussionists, Trilla displays a sophisticated and controlled mastery of timbre and pitch, particularly at low volume.
Williams meanwhile possesses all the tools of the post-Albert Ayler saxophonist: a diverse vocabulary of non-tempered screeches, plosive quacks, reverberating multiphonics, and circular breathed squalls, delivered with energy and musicality. Anyone seeking the wailing reeds and roiling drums which might be expected from any no-holds-barred meeting between saxophone and drums in the free jazz arena, won't be disappointed, especially by the closing "Haemolymph." But to their credit Williams and Trilla don't go for the jugular all the time, also exploring a broad range of alternative gambits across the five cuts. They demonstrate a fine grasp of dynamics and sonority in the opening "Book Lung," which builds to a bristling boil from a quiet cymbal hum, before a short decrescendo of breathy yelps and barely struck surfaces. A similar trajectory underlies "Valve," though the soundscape is very different as Trilla majors on a low level but almost continuous drone from percussive devices which could even pass as electronics. Williams judiciously deploys various implements including squeaky toys, wood flutes and thumb piano as part of a textural carpet.
Even when he shifts to reeds he makes a minimalist contribution of carefully calibrated overtones, climaxing with his pure toned squeals blending with Trilla's bowed cymbals. Unconventional sounds also arise in "Atlas Moth," shaped initially into a more conversational exchange albeit one which culminates in a ranting stream. But not everything happens at the extremes. On an unaccompanied intro to "Stigma" Williams tempers his avant tendencies with an extemporized melody which bears some similarities, conscious or otherwise, to Brötzmann's "Master Of A Small House" line. Finally, a sustained cry heralds Trilla's entry in pulsing polyrhythmic mood, which once again sets up the anticipated intense finale. Such is its sweep and success, this album could serve as a primer for the format. "- John Sharpe, All About Jazz