The Levitation Shuffle
Free improvisation isn’t only a European thing. The alto saxophonist Wally Shoup is one of the few American representatives of the musical praxis that dropped the jazz part of the “free jazz” equation and started improvising without idiomatic parameters. And even if he did discover the Music Improvisation Company (British improvisers Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Hugh Davies and Jamie Muir) during the Seventies, he didn’t forget Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler, the pioneers of the “new thing”, or his teenage love for blues, rhythm & blues, and soul. Shoup, a regular partner of left field guitarists like Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Nels Cline (Wilco) in “noise music” situations, clearly prefers the by-now conventional sax-bass-drums jazz format, with Reuben Radding and Bob Rees taking up the other chairs in the Wally Shoup Trio. His other trio with cellist Brent Arnold and percussionist Greg Campbell is simply a deviation from that pattern. “The Levitation Shuffle” quartet is another thing altogether – Radding plays the double bass part, and again, Campbell takes the sticks, but the combo includes a young pianist, Gust Burns, who impregnates his playing with classical and avant-garde motives and techniques. This is not your regular Shoup recording – for that you have those trios and his duos with Chris Corsano – but it’s really Shoup you hear, with his trademark serpentine alto saxophone phrasings on top of spontaneous constructions boiling constantly on the verge of explosion. Careful, or you’ll burn yourself.