Dominic Duval with the CT String Quartet

Under the Pyramid
Leo / CDLR279

Dominic Duval / bass, Tomas Ulrich / cello, Jason Hwang / violin, Ron Lawrence / viola

Each of the members of the CT Quartet has made a name for himself in his own right in recent years, none less so than leader Duval. With interest in all-strings improvisation increasing (questions were asked on the fine Free Jazz Digest only weeks ago), perhaps the CT’s time has come.

The group is named after Cecil Taylor, and his ferocity and sense of multiple layers moving independently is very much at the heart of what they do. Their sound can be extremely acid at times, as string-based improv usually can, but what’s surprising about this disc is how relatively relaxed it sounds.

The group here works at creating multiple layers in a slightly more conventional sense than that associated with Mr Taylor. Instead, this group is beginning to sound more and more like, well, like a string quartet, really. “Mi Kuba”, for example, begins almost like a lost Bartok quartet, and although things get a little more hairy from there, that traditional division of labour does somewhat prevail.

Far from an accusation of having gone soft, this makes the CT quartet all the more interesting. On this disk, it sounds as if they’re really engaging with what it means to be a string quartet, getting their feet rooted into the history of their line-up as well as poking their heads into the future. The music is beautiful — Hwang, in particular, is on ravishing form — and can also be breathtakingly violent, but the way in which it’s organised, all on the fly, is fascinating stuff. Richard Cochrane