(Clean Feed)

This project was born from a joke in a conversation between Clean Feed’s boss Pedro Costa and violinist Carlos “Zingaro”, in which the former hypothesized a string quartet including Vanessa Mae and Yo Yo Ma. After laughing off the chance, somehow the concept lingered on, the result being this volcanic CD recorded at Teatro Lethes of Faro (Portugal) by “Zingaro” himself, Tomas Ulrich (cello), Elliott Sharp (acoustic guitar, National Tricone) and Ken Filiano (double bass). Four completely different backgrounds, which in this case are hardly recognizable, fuse into a collective sound where each musician’s timbral personality shines brightly in a difficult music that needs many attentive listens before one really starts to penetrate its essence. No expedients are necessary when the creative flow is set in motion; the large part of the improvisations is gifted with a Webern-esque quality (also typical of certain scores for strings by Frank Zappa circa Yellow Shark – go check, fellows), the musicians capitalizing on the percussive aspects of their instrumental techniques – pluck and pizzicato rule since the very beginning of “Levitation” – in an avalanche of unanswered questions regarding the vague idea of a “tonality” which never materializes. A more dramatic use of the glissando and, in general, a full exploitation of the most stirring arco executions are to be heard in pieces like “If Not Now, When” and “Ripples”, while Sharp conjures up bionic eBow elegies in the final track “As Hard As It Comes…”. Highly impressive are of course the extremely varying dynamics that the artists bring to the table, which rarely culminate in veritable “contrasts”, depicting instead four zigzagging lines of lively acuteness that, in the moments of intersection, generate sparkles of remarkable expressiveness. Here’s hoping that this group goes on with this kind of research for a long time, as this first outing is already something to archive in the “memorable” section of our files.

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