Raymond MacDonald/Gunter Sommer – Delphinius & Lyra (CF 086)
The great Gunter “Baby” Sommer isn’t heard often enough for my taste, so it’s a treat to listen to his duet with the fine Scottish saxophonist MacDonald on “Delphinius & Lyra”. Make what you will of the title’s reference to constellations. What immediately leaps out to me is the wealth of shared history in this one—Sommer had performed with GIO, of which MacDonald is a member—and also the way this disc is one of those familiar but still exciting hallmarks of the cross-cutting paths of European free improvisation. I’d actually been listening to this one for a while by the time I got this review copy, and I’m happy to be able to write some positive words about this boisterous session. Sommer has always been unique in his ability to combine a serious percussive momentum—indebted to Rashied Ali and Sunny Murray, but with rolling repetitive patterns all his own—with pointillism and texture (primarily in his use of his cymbals). That makes him a great foil for the intense MacDonald, whose emotional playing is sometimes a bit harsh and hard-bitten (“Socialist Hip Shit” or the screaming altissimo of the last two tracks) and elsewhere quite plaintive (“I’m OK”). It’s not overly dour or long-suffering—and the guys have some good fun, occasionally breaking out in vocals and harmonica
playing—but has its own weight, achieved simply through focus and fellowship.
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