by Ian Mann
May 21, 2021
This is music that manages to be both challenging AND accessible, occupying a perfect point on the cusp between composition and improvisation.
Fast Loose + Out Of Control
Edward Ware – drums
Audun Waage- trumpet
Julian Jahanpour – voice (track 10)
Subtitled “Cut The Crap And Keep It Real” the title “Bare Essentials” is an appropriate title for this self released recording by Fast Loose & Out Of Control (or FLOC), the duo consisting of drummer Edward Ware and trumpeter Audun Waage.
FLOC take their inspiration from jazz musicians such as saxophonists Dewey Redman and David Murray, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummers Max Roach and Jack DeJohnette. Other musical influences range from J.S. Bach to West African tribal drumming. Ware and Waage also draw inspiration from visual artists such as Rembrandt and Goya and from literature and poetry.
Originally from New Zealand Ware re-located to New York in 1990 before moving on to Barcelona in 2017, where this album was recorded. He currently divides his time between these two cities and has worked with many of the leading figures on the New York jazz and improvised music scene. The list includes guitarists Ben Monder and Marc Ribot, bassists Mark Helias and William Parker, pianist Matthew Shipp, trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Chris Kelsey and many more. During the 1990s he was a regular performer at The Knitting Factory and appears on several live recordings from this venue made under Kelsey’s leadership.
Others with whom he has collaborated include the UK’s own Courtney Pine, Austrian bassist Peter Herbert and the former Miles Davis percussionist Mino Cinelu.
Ware is also a composer for various contemporary classical configurations, these ranging from orchestras through chamber music ensembles to duos and solo performers. Also something of a philosopher the full range of his musical and cultural activities can be explored more fully at his Madlab Music website https://www.madlabmusic.com/
Waage is a more elusive online presence. Originally from Bergen, Norway he is now based in Barcelona where he also works as a producer. “Bare Essentials” was recorded at Waage’s own studio with the trumpeter also acting as the recording engineer.
Born in 1980 Waage previously lived and worked in both London and New York before settling in Barcelona in 2008. He studied trumpet with Jon Faddis and has worked with an international cast of musicians including pianists Bobo Stenson and Gwilym Simcock, bassists Janek Gwizdala and Orlando Le Fleming, guitarist Mike Stern, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, percussionists Airto Moreira and Terje Isungset and harmonica player Gregoire Maret among others.
Ware’s liner notes for “Bare Essentials” explain the motivations behind the recording thus;
“By touching drums and breathing into a trumpet we can take the interplay of these bare essentials and through it affirm the presence of life as organic vitality. An essential force that gives meaning and context to the art form we recognise as music”. He continues; “What you will hear on this recording is a distillation; of time, thought and emotion”.
The ten tracks on “Bare Essentials” embrace elements of both composition and improvisation and explore a variety of jazz styles. It’s not a free jazz recording as such and although undeniably powerful it is also surprisingly accessible.
On his Bandcamp page Ware describes the pieces thus;
“Compositions and sketches for trumpet and drums possessing a compelling immediacy, full of musicality and depth with a latitude for inventiveness - a musical embodiment of jing, chi and shen.”.
And again from the liner notes;.
“From the known composed notes on a page into an unknown future through the pulse of the present the improvisers’ art is reflective of much of our life’s process.”
The ten tracks are all composed by Ware, and although Waage’s trumpet inevitably represents the ‘front line’ instrument this is still very much a partnership of equals. On the face of it drums and trumpet may seem a pretty Spartan format but as the album opener, “Waltz Macabre”, demonstrates the duo are capable of conjuring a wide array of sounds from their respective instruments. Ward’s drumming moves from brisk brushwork through crisp cymbal colourations to something altogether more dynamic – and back again. Waage also plays with great assurance and fluency, embracing a similarly broad dynamic and tonal range, all without recourse to any electronic effects.
Ware’s drums usher in “If…” setting the pulse to which Waage responds, his tone now more strident and imbued with a choked intensity. Ware sets the pace in a piece that embraces a series of fits and starts and which includes a further passage of unaccompanied drumming. Ware is an excellent technician, but gratuitous displays of virtuosity are not what this album is about, as the ebb and flow of the exchanges on the following “How Do You Hear It?” demonstrates. The relationship between Ward and Waage is all about listening, even in the moments when one or other instrument falls silent.
“What…” is also introduced by Ware’s drums, leading to a series of colourful exchanges, these eventually supplanted by the even more animated conversations in the titularly linked and highly energetic “What The Funk”. This piece really does give the duo the chance to flash their chops in a series of dazzling stop/start unison passages reminiscent of the instrumental passages in King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”. Ware also stretches out briefly at the drum kit, playing with great power and authority and again serving notice of that awesome technique.
Introduced by shimmering cymbals “Meaning…” finds the duo in more reflective mood, the melancholy ring of Waage’s trumpet accompanied by Ward’s terse, mainly brushed drum commentary.
The introspective feel continues into the following “Portrait”, which eventually gathers momentum part way through, lifting the melancholy mood. An unaccompanied drum passage then leads to a solo trumpet cadenza, this followed by more joint interaction on one of the lengthier items on the album, a piece that goes through various twists and turns.
Another of the longer pieces, “Just Tell Me” is introduced by the mournful sound of unaccompanied trumpet. This is largely a solo trumpet meditation with Waage producing an impressive array of sounds from his instrument, while still retaining great emotional depth. Ware’s accompaniment is sparing but effective, the tap of a cymbal here, the swish of a brush or the rumble of a mallet there, as he demonstrates an admirable intelligence and restraint throughout the course of this trumpet led lament.
As its title might suggest “Abstract Notions” is the piece that veers closest to perceived ideas of ‘free jazz’ with a series of exchanges that range from from the fiery and visceral to something more reflective. However there are more obviously written passages too, as the duo continue to skilfully blur the boundaries between composition and improvisation.
The closing track, “Time”, features the voice of musician and actor Julian Jahanpour, who recites a poem, the words of which were presumably written by Ware. The words muse on the nature of time itself, and particularly its relationship to human existence. His voice is accompanied only by the sound of Ware’s drums, which rumble, pulse and clatter dramatically, adding gravitas to Jahanpour’s recitation.
I’m grateful to Edward Ware for forwarding me a copy of this very enjoyable album. It’s a recording that is less daunting than the sparseness of its instrumentation might suggest. There’s a very obvious musicality about the exchanges between Ware and Waage, a melodic sense that never allows the music to lapse into a generic free jazz squall.
A strong rapport between the drummer and the trumpeter is apparent throughout the recording and the quality of the playing is exceptional throughout, albeit without drawing obvious attention to itself.
Ware’s compositional sketches provide excellent jumping off points for eloquent improvised dialogue and each conversation is relatively succinct and concise, with no single piece being allowed to overstay its welcome. Not that there’s any sense of compromise, this is music that manages to be both challenging AND accessible, occupying a perfect point on the cusp between composition and improvisation.
Ware and Waage are both new names to me but I was hugely impressed by both them and would be keen to hear more of their playing in other musical contexts.
I’d also be interested to hear something of Jahanpour the musician. Born in Isfahan, raised in the UK and now based in Barcelona he is also a pianist and composer with a number of recordings to his credit with a variety of different projects.
“Bare Essentials” is available via Edward Ware’s Bandcamp page;
From Edward Ware via email;
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Thanks for forwarding your review which was a great read and also thanks for taking the time to actually have a listen and hear what’s going on - it is appreciated.
Your remark regarding the music sitting on the cusp between composition and improv and being both challenging and accessible really hits the mark - it is very much what I am after with things these days and the couple of quotes from the liner notes reflect that too - form, freedom and truth are important foundations for life and artistic expression and where we are going as a race just now is certainly bringing these issues into ever sharper relief.