This past December this site wrote about Intakt Records’ release of a free jazz improvisation album with the provocative title Another Day in Fucking Paradise. The album was based on a recording session that took place in Oakland in January of 2016, where guitarist Fred Frith led a trio whose other members were bassist Jason Hoopes and percussionist Jordan Glenn. The album involved an uninterrupted session lasting about 50 minutes, which was then “parsed” into thirteen tracks.
Last month Intakt released You Are Here, the result of another Frith session from last year, this one taking place in November and involving only one other performer, wind player Hans Koch. This one runs about the same duration; but it consists of seven separate and well-defined pieces, whose respective durations run from about one and one-half minutes to about thirteen minutes. As the Editorial Reviews on the Amazon.com Web page observed, Frith and Koch have known about each other since the Nineties.
This was a time when Frith was taking a rather unique approach to working with graphic scores. His album Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire involved live performances from scores that were basically photographs; and the title of the album summarized the sources of those photographs. Koch contributed to five of those tracks, taken from a performance at the Kulturzentrum Dieselstrasse in Esslingen (Germany) in October of 1995. This was also the time when Koch led a trio with cellist Martin Schütz and percussionist Fredy Studer for the Intakt album Hardcore Chambermusic.
“Hardcore” is definitely not an appropriate adjective for You Are Here. This album offers a far more intimate listening experience as both of the performers explore the sonorous possibilities of their respective instruments. In Koch’s case this includes a wide variety of blowing techniques, which may explain why “spit” is included on the list of instruments he plays, the others being bass clarinet and both soprano and tenor saxophones. One might almost call this an album of exploratory conversations, where the duration of each track is basically a matter of how far the “topic of conversation” can be taken. This is an album whose tendencies toward quietude invite highly focused listening, and those willing to make that commitment will most likely find themselves highly rewarded.