The saxophone/drums duo might be the most intense and concentrated formation in improvised music, reduced to the absolutely necessary: melody and rhythm. Lots of players have used this constellation, from John Coltrane/Rashied Ali’s Interstellar Space (1967/released 1974) to Frank Wright/Muhammad Ali’s Adieu Little Man (1974) to Peter Brötzmann/Hamid Drake’s The Dried Rat-Dog (1995) and Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love’s Lightning Over Water (2014) (this is just a random selection, of course), because like no other it offers the possibility to establish a symbiosis.
However, while the aforementioned duos often focus on raw energy, which is mostly created by deep and howling sounds, Stefan Keune and Paul Lovens concentrate on microscopic details, intimacy, and silence. This can be heard at “Munich, April 13th, 2013“, the second track on this album (the first one was recorded in Brussels the day after, the third one is the short Munich encore). Keune (sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones) carefully explores the higher registers of his instruments in meticulously staked areas of sounds, which he subjects to close scrutiny with restrained mercurial bursts, chirps and twitters, and harsh overblowing. He pushes them to such extremes that one might be afraid that he could get absorbed by his own universe. His highly specific sound, which reminds of Evan Parker and Swiss reedist Hans Koch, meets one of Europe’s free jazz veterans, Paul Lovens, on selected and unselected drums and cymbals – a distinction he likes to make, meaning that he uses material he has taken with him or which he is given on location. Lovens, who actually comes from a rather energetic approach in his early days with the Schlippenbach Trio, contributes to Keune’s sounds with very fiddly, dizzy and edgy intersperses, which must not be confused with agitated and hectic ones. In the middle of the piece the saxophone mumbles as if it was daydreaming so that it seems to get lost and almost disappears before Lovens actually pulls Keune back on track with a very resolute roll on the toms.
What makes the duo a real symbiosis is the fact that Lovens responds to Keune’s reed flutter with a high-pitched drum set and an increased use of cymbals and little gongs. If the album was released on vinyl you would check if you played it on 45 instead of 33 rpm.
The result is an hour of exquisite music, full of microtonal expressiveness, concentrated fragility, and high-octane tension – where two musicians become one. Absolutely worth listening to.
(Martin Schray, Freejazzblog)