Michael Bisio Quartet
CIMP (Creative Improvised Music Projects)
Connections: Mike Bisio (1955, Troy, NY) has been performing with Avram Fefer (1964, San Francisco, CA) since the 1990s, was Steve Gauci's (1966, NYC, NY) bassist of choice on Steve's first free Jazz gig, and the two were joined by Jay Rosen (1961, Phila., PA) for Steve's trio recording (CJR 1180). Mike had mentioned wanting to construct things with Jay and thought writing for two strong and defined reeds was exciting. As Mikepersonally knew and liked the individuals, it kind of makes this grouping a natural, even more so when one realizes that Jay was Avram's choice on Avram's masterful Shades of the Muse (CIMP 286).
This session followed a previous night's gig in NYC, after which the quartet drove to the Albany, N.Y., area and got some sleep before finishing the trip to Rossie, N.Y. They arrived in good moods and warm spirits in the early evening, the outside temperature falling rapidly into the sub-zero zone. After supper and an average length positioning&sound check, the group began with Blue State. The opening, with its Third Streamish demeanor, is a bit deceptive in that its harmonic blends lull the listener, quickly immersing one in an emotively escalating duo exchange between Avram and Mike before Jay and Steve bring it around into a more traditional Jazz vernacular.
Much to my surprise, at this point, Mike-who had made a point of mailing everybody in the group the music he wanted to use-called for an improv, Basic Deconstruction. A good choice, after establishing a mood, as the musical exposition grabbed hold and the quartet was off and running. As they brought the improvisation to a close, at that perfectly timed moment (almost as though on purpose), the bridge on Mike's bass collapsed, the strings went limp, and various pieces of wood bounced off the body and fell to the floor. All of which can be heard on this disc. And then there was silence. A complete void. Everybody just stared atMike, saying nothing, just taking in the enormity of the collapse, hoping to hear from Mike a contrary declaration to what was clearly a disaster. Mike stood, silent, dazed, and nonplussed like the rest of us. It was a moment of stunned silence and very real drama.
Ten very long seconds later, Mikeput down the bass and excused himself to regroup his emotions. After his return and assessment of the situation, Mike said he had to get the sound post, now lying inside the bass, re-erected between the inside of the back to the inside of the front (between the two F holes). If that could be accomplished, then the tension on the bridge and strings could be rebuilt and perhaps the bass could be revived and utilized. And so, after gathering various flashlights, mirrors, poles, and skewers, Mike, Marc, and Susan began what might pass for arthroscopic surgery to repair/rebuild the instrument.
About 20 minutes into the surgery, Mike stated to me that it looked fixable. I, in turn, announced this to the rest of the quartet and others in attendance (sitting in an adjoining room) who quite spontaneously broke into applause. Twenty minutes after that, with Marc and Susan stabilizing the parts,Mike slowly began to re-tension the strings. At this point I began to worry that the experience might inhibit his bass attack, though Mike's increased animation and even an occasional laugh gave me hope, in addition to the fact that Mike is not easily inhibited. Relieved laughter eventually filledthe room, with Michael's endorphins riding a surge of relief and the bass once again upright and in his hands.
Confidence restored, it was back to music making. But after a couple of hours of musical frustration it was clear that the events of the day had taken their toll and that the best course was for everybody to get some sleep. It was a night to be remembered.
Late the next morning the quartet regrouped in The Spirit Room and readdressed the post-bass collapse compositions of the night before, starting with the sectional impressionistic narrative, History of the Mystery, a kind of massive planetary coming together and passing. Here, the piece, so tediously failed at the night before, fell together quite naturally in passion, statement, and focus. Watching Mike physically attack his bass made it clear that the previous night's literal deconstruction had not led to any timidityin his approach. This is some nicely sustained creative/cooperative improvised music, approachable from many directions. No novices here. These are mature artists with the ability to speak passionately and coherently in concert, and concurrently construct the stage in which to orate.
Following thatpiece came Swa Swu Swi, a bit of West Coast Bop once removed. This morning it fell right into place whereas the night before it vexed the group in its execution and their attempts at numerous, wide-ranging tempos run-throughs.
Before we ended with the bass-drum duo on Trane's Drum Thing, the quartet played Zephyr, music of a lovely silky tapestry. Both Drum Thing and Zephyr brought a nice serenity to two days of passion and pulse.
Robert D. Rusch - January 18, 2005
Originally from New York State, Bisio has been a vital fixture on the Seattle scene for three decades. With over a half dozen highly recommended sessions as leader, his work has been likened to David Izenzon, Charlie Haden and Mingus and for good reason.
Recorded early this year, Connections features eight tunes, most hovering around five minutes, excepting the 15 and 20-minute pieces "Basic Deconstruction" and "History of a Mystery." Bisio's tunes make up the entire session apart from the moody Bisio/Jay Rosen bass and mallets duo of Coltrane's "A Drum Thing" and "Basic Deconstruction," the only full collective improvisation and the centerpiece of the session. The two horn frontline begins with Avram Fefer (alto, soprano, tenor, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute) opening on clarinet (later flute) and tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci playing bowed bass-like passages, each complemented by an intense backdrop of harmonic and rhythmic colors and patterns. The piece culminates with Bisio's quick plucked acoustic effects and almost-as-if-intended collapse of his bass' bridge! It was only the beginning to a musical journey (not to mention emergency instrument surgery) that brought obvious unplanned adversity but no inklings of hesitancy.
Always the makings of great music-adversity is! The CD ends with three duos: "Drum Thing" followed by the fruit of the second day's Fefer/Bisio duo session: an alternate non-quartet rendition of "Zephyr" and "Sometimes I Feel."