jack wright w/ hell & bunny
over the transom

The cdr edition of this release is out of print. There is no download available.


Although I have never seen Jack Wright wear a white lab coat to one of his gigs, it seems somehow more appropriate after hearing "over the transom." Wright's aesthetic is driven by dogged determination to wresting all possible sonic materials from his instruments. The open, meditative attitude dominating this CD somehow highlights this approach. Drummer Ben Hall and cellist Hans Buetow stay in drone mode for most of the CD. Hall uses gongs and down-tuned, tympani-like toms, his playing perhaps resembling a Paul Lytton track broken down and played segment-by-segment, like the Zapruder film. The cello sounds largely blend with the long ringing tones of the cymbals and gongs. Hall and Buetow often sonically meld to the point at which they seem to be a single player.

Within this milieu, Wright's sax work stands out more nakedly than usual. His advancement of extended techniques is such that it is occasionally unclear even to saxophone players how he manages to emit some of the sounds he does (the 3-4 minute mark on the second track is a good example of this). His explorations of muted tones, unusual interruptions of tones, and general dissection of the sounds of reed and brass continually amaze. As heard on his solo records and in his collaborations with Chattanooga's Shaking Ray Levis, Wright is often featured in more raucous settings and utilizes an antic, almost glossolalic saxophone language. But here the musical approach is less one of interaction than of layering and blending. The playing is necessarily more restrained, since the group as a whole is contributing to an atmosphere. The "wrong" gestures and attitudes would stand out, breaking the trance. The overall effect is surreal and mildly industrial, perhaps like a strange, slowly operating machine recorded in some subterranean chamber. The black-and-white industrial photos used for the cover art, featuring pipes and bleak exterior shots, provide apt visual clues to what the listener will find inside. Wright's more playful, goofier inclinations DO occasionally rear their head here and there on the CD. Track three, for example, Wright eventually begins exploring the more "gastrointestinal" possibilities of his saxophone, farting, burbling and wheezing his way to the end of the piece. As a whole, though, this CD is quite single-minded in its documentation of a moodier side of improvised music.

Wyman Brantley


"Hell & Bunny" sounds like something you might come across over at, but in fact it's an improv duo consisting of cellist Hans Buetow and percussionist Ben Hall (I'm not sure who's hell and who's bunny but I guess it doesn't matter), who might be more familiar to readers as two thirds of Graveyards, with ol' Wolf Eye himself John Olson. On this splendid CDR release on the Alberta-based Bug Incision imprint they're joined by another prowling wolf of American free music, saxophonist Jack Wright, and it's the most impressive Wright release I've heard since the two trio dates with Michel Doneda and Tatsuya Nakatani, from between(SOSEditions, 2003) and No Stranger To Air (Sprout, 2006). At the turn of the century, Jack Wright took a decisive step (every step Jack takes is decisive) into lowercase territory, generously acknowledging the influence of Bhob Rainey, but throughout the decade his playing, especially solo, has gradually been getting more combative again – though it's nowhere near as fiery as it was back when he started out in the early 80s. On Over The Transom, Hall's soft mallets and Buetow's elegant micromelodies and delicate pizzicati pull him back into more restrained territory, but you can tell he's just itching to burst into flames. Wright has always taken the line of most resistance as a player (I still think he should team up with his English namesake Seymour), exposing himself to as much risk as he can find. Just as well he's not a Wall Street trader. Listen to how he jams the horn against his thigh and really goes for – and gets! – those awkward multiphonics, just when the music is quiet enough to show up the tiniest mistake. This stuff is as poised as gagaku, as focused as shodo and as intense as butoh.

Dan Warburton