Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inner Ear (Trzaska / Swell / Holmlander / Daisy) - Breathing Steam (Kilogram Records, 2011) by Stephan Moore

Inner Ear Quartet (band)

Mikolaj Trzaska - alto saxophone, bass clarinet, tarogat
Steve Swell - trombone
Per-Ake Holmlander - tuba
Tim Daisy - drums

Breathing Steam (Kilogram Records 2011)

Made up of members from Ken Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble, Inner Ear takes much of the Chicago sax man's ethics and expands on it for this stellar debut, Breathing Steam. The reduced size of the group (a quartet) allows the themes from Resonance to--as the title suggests--breath. There is a bit more experimentation as well as harmonic resilience throughout this session.

There's no leader here, so each musician gets an opportunity to stretch their chords as only the burst energy that is the opener, "Lonely Consumer." Trzaska and Daisy tear through notes in counterpoint fashion. It's a duel of juxtapositions, with Trzaska screeching into heavens; while Daisy adds staccato patterns all around. It's beautifully laid out. Vandermark would be very happy. "Monster Confession" is dark and loose. The group move in various haunting directions with Homlander's tuba presenting some ominous sounds and then folding into some great improvised work by Daisy and Swell.

"For Our Mothers" has soft avant-blues texture to it. The quartet moves slowly through some dark passages with Trzaska portraying almost a funeral-like tone. Swell and Homlander add a billowing quality to this offering that quietly fades into the distance just as it began.

Breathing Steam might be just a one-off for these members of the larger Resonance Ensemble but its a rich and organic experience that is many times over worth listening and looking out for. Sometimes the sum is just as good and significant as the whole. Inner Ear is rewarding stuff.

By Stephan Moore

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