Doran/Studer/Burri/Magnenat: Musik für zwei Kontrabässe, elektrische Gitarre und Schlagzeug (ECM 1436)


Musik für zwei Kontrabässe, elektrische Gitarre und Schlagzeug

Christy Doran guitar
Fredy Studer drums, percussion
Bobby Burri double-bass
Olivier Magnenat double-bass
Recorded May 1990 at Soundville Recording Studios, Lucerne
Engineer: René J. Zingg
Produced by Doran/Studer/Burri/Magnenat

After discovering the unique hand-wringing style of guitarist Christy Doran on Red Twist & Tuned Arrow, I was excited to check out this seemingly neglected record, for which he was again joined by drummer Fredy Studer, only this time, intriguingly enough, with two bassists: Bobby Burri and Olivier Magnenat. Burri is a familiar name in the ECM circuit, having shared stages with Pierre Favre, Manfred Schoof, and Tim Berne, and of course as a member of OM (also with Doran and Studer). Burri, it bears noting, began as a guitarist before switching to bass, and so his attentiveness to Doran’s insectile runs is not without forethought. Magnenat, on the other hand, started his training classically before he began teaching himself to improvise. He also brings previous collaborative experience to this playful little studio session.

I am tempted to compare the starting track, “Siren,” to Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, sporting as it does a nice dose of fluid guitar and solid drumming. But there is something far different going on behind the light groove exterior. In this sonic sky there are more than just galaxies, but also dead stars whose forms have given up their hold on symmetry long ago. These playful details soon jump into longer stretches of collective energy. Doran’s penchant for long and twisted passages is on full display in “Chemistries I.” With every percussive percolation the colors change. Flavors comingle, finding in newfound combinations an unbridled joy amid spastic picking and hitting from Doran and Studer, (not always) respectively. The band has its day in “Collage,” an unsurprisingly eclectic work featuring lively interchange between basses. “Chemistries II” spreads a paper-thin veneer through which an arco light and sparkling drums shine, seeming to foreshadow the subtler considerations of “Ma Perché.” While this glittering window of interpretation best showcases the band’s improvisatory abilities, the somehow haunting “’Seen A Man About A Dog” offers a tender side—short lived as it is—before the resolute romp of “SCD,” which seems to turn the flames ever higher. Bringing us at last to “Ü 7,” which over a metronomic guitar weaves a mesh of knotted threads and plucking strings.

In spite of its clean production, this album maintains a garage band honesty that still rings refreshingly. Worth seeking out for the curious.

<< Arild Andersen: Sagn (ECM 1435)
>> Masqualero: Re-Enter (ECM 1437)

Doran/Studer/Wittwer: Red Twist & Tuned Arrow (ECM 1342)

Red Twist & Tuned Arrow

Christy Doran electric and acoustic guitars
Fredy Studer drums, percussion
Stephan Wittwer electric guitar, synthesizer, sequencer programming
Recorded November 1986 at Soundville Recording Studios, Luzern
Engineer: Rene J. Zingg
Produced by RT&TA and Manfred Eicher

Guitarist Christy Doran, who nowadays divides his time between teaching in Switzerland and recording, is another in a line of unique guitarists on the ECM roster. For those new to this intriguing musician as I am, this seems as good a place as any to start, though one may also encounter swatches of his art flapping in the wind of the OM collective. For the Red Twist & Tuned Arrow project, he joins improviser extraordinaire Stephan Wittwer and OM founder Fredy Studer on drums and percussion. The product of this chemical reaction is a record of great ingenuity that has worn well. What first impresses about Doran and Wittwer is their delicacy. We find out right away in the Derek Bailey-esque vibes of “Canon Cannon” that both musicians are far less interested in powering their way through material than they are in uncorking a fine vintage of fermented logic. Moving from the synth ground lines here to the perpetuity of “1374,” again we are awash in the microscopy, which is only enhanced by Studer’s evocative colors. Like something out of a sci-fi film, it pulses with alien energy. On that note, “Quasar” might as well be called “Quaver,” for that it does in abundance, moving through a gallery of playing that is nocturnal yet blinding. Doran does much to admire here in the date’s crowning achievement, which is not without its more forthright moments in the oh-so-satisfying grunge of “Belluard.” Along with “D.T.E.T.,” “Backtalk” casts a jazzier, if more abstract, reflection onto the mix. The trio ends smashingly with “Messing,” a quintessential track for Doran, who takes his signature seizures to their greatest height yet. An acoustic breaks from its cage and runs rampant with its freedom cries, leaving the piece’s latter half to fend for itself electronically. Awesome.

Doran grists a pliable sound that never stays in one place or genre for very long. His quick costume changes ensure that we remain on our toes. Perhaps an acquired taste for some, but satisfying and ultimately joyful, with nary a pessimistic puddle to step in.

<< Thomas Tallis: The Lamentations Of Jeremiah (ECM 1341 NS)
>> Enrico Rava/Dino Saluzzi Quintet: Volver (ECM 1343)