Goldstein and Wilson

True Muze / TUMUCD9801

Malcolm Goldstein / violin, Peter Niklas Wilson / bass

A meeting of jazz and classical, at least on paper. Wilson has a pedigree which includes Braxton, Derek Bailey, Marion Brown and John Tchicai; Goldstein tours with a string of New Music and dance ensembles. But this is a million miles away from the rarefied chamber improv which often comes of such collaborations, the minute, Cagean soundworlds of many London-based ensembles being one example.

No, this is tough, loud playing which moves quickly, using uncomposed melodic lines as frameworks on which to hang embellishments and wild, tangential developments. Although Goldstein is a classical player, he has a firm grasp of improvisations and is clearly influenced by the harsh, driving textures of Eastern European folk fiddle. And while Wilson has free jazz under his fingernails, he also has a strong command of those extended timbres which European improv borrowed from classical experiments nearly forty years ago. This isn’t so much a culture clash, then, as a meeting halfway — it just isn’t the halfway point you might have expected.

Instead of diffuse “insect music”, this duo play with the expressive devices associated with Romanticism, making their music a good deal more firey. This can be seen in Dominic Duval’s Equinox Trio, too, and one wonders whether this is a new movement, an emancipation of techniques once derided as cynical emotionalism by the modernist vanguard. At times, Goldstein reminds this listener of Hendrix; not so long ago, that might have been seen as a criticism, a betrayal of the music’s radical agenda by comfortable bluesy or folksy gestures. Not any more — players seem more confident now of using these devices without falling into a generic trap. It’s an exciting development, if it really is a tend and not an aberration. It links up with a rediscovery of folk music — especially from Eastern Europe — which has also characterised much of this decade’s experimental music.

Goldstein and Wilson are, as a duo, very contemporary, very exciting and completely uncompromising. Don’t exopect, on the basis of what’s been said above, tunes or key centres or metrical rhythms. This is hard-line free improv; but it has a different flavour from much of what we have come to associate with that genre. Richard Cochrane