Armaroli & Hauser at Angelica


ARMAROLI-HAUSER: Structuring the Silence. Angelica / Sergio Armaroli, mar; Fritz Hauser, dm / Leo Records LR 895 (live: Bologna, January 30, 2019)

This CD, recorded live at the Angelica music festival in Bologna, Italy, is similar to that of Brandon Seabrook and Simon Nabatov’s disc which I just reviewed, but not identical. Here we have two master percussionists, one of whom plays marimba rather than his usual drums, involved in creating percussion patterns.

I specifically used that term rather than “music” in the strict sense because percussion is only a part of music, and when the tempo and meter are as amorphous and fluctuating as in this strange set it does not start the toes tapping or gladden the heart of the average listener.

Oh, no. This is a collection of challenging sounds spontaneously improvised. One of its challenges is simply to try to follow the “bouncing ball” as the rhythm morphs and changes, because little or nothing that Armaroli plays on the marimba is melodic. Had he chosen that route, this set may have been more appealing to the average jazz listener, but he did not.

Yet by choosing to play marimba and not another drum set, Armaroli has created a foil for Hauser in terms of sonority if nothing else. The sounds they produce do not move along at a steady pace, whatever the meter might be at any given moment; rather, they shift and change their shapes. Some of Armaroli’s drum patterns, such as those beginning around the 9:15 mark in the first selection, are quite virtuosic, but for the most part he is less concerned with showing off his technique than he is with simply creating an interesting environment.

And interestingly, it is Armaroli who for the most part follows Hauser’s lead. I say this is interesting  because, as the one playing the “melodic” instrument, you would think that he’s be the one to lead. Sometimes he does, but not often; generally, he is happy to let Hauser set the pace (whatever it is at any given moment) and just tag along. The one thing that Armaroli does do with his instrument is to raise or lower the general pitch of the performance without actually playing anything resembling a melodic line. True, there are a few moments in which he plays a note sequence that moves up and down, but nothing that resembles a melody; they are just motifs. At around the 14:20 mark in the first piece, Hauser somehow makes legato sounds that resemble whale sounds. Without being able to see him, I’m not sure what he’s doing. Playing a musical saw?

The performance goes on and on, yet never becomes dull because the duo is constantly changing tempo and mood. For me, this disc was not a keeper, but I certainly found it fascinating.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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