Raymond MacDonald/Gunter Sommer – Delphinius & Lyra (CF 086)
Raymond MacDonald is a young Scottish saxophonist, Günter “Baby” Sommer a veteran Swiss drummer who has been instrumental in creating European free jazz. They enter into a musical dialogue on this album, and how! The record begins with a serious kick by Sommer on one of his cymbals, and the party begins : free jazz improv from beginning to end, with an intensity that is maintained throughout, even on the slower pieces. The title of the album refers to signs of the zodiac in the southern hemisphere, Delphinius (the dolphins) and Lyra (the harp), which could lead to think that the music refers to the spiritualitiy of Coltrane’s “Interstellar Space”, also a sax and drums album, if only the titles of the tracks were not so prosaic by comparison : “GIO and the Dresden Free Team”, “Socialistic Hip Shit”, “Peter’s Red Shoes”, it’s hard to find titles less spiritual than these. That’s a little odd, but who cares, the music is brilliant, varied, deeply emotional at moments, sometimes hard, wailing, crying, shouting, singing, yet never wild, never without purpose, never without intent, because the two musicians build an interesting, coherent and sometimes suprising musical universe, such as in “I’m OK”, in which MacDonald’s slowly weeping alto sounds like a wounded dog lying by the roadside, when suddenly Sommer walks along playing harmonica in the most joyful way, just disappearing while the wailing goes on. Once in a while Sommer also plays mouth-harp, and on one song MacDonald sings/shouts like he’s celebrating something, just to have his ass kicked a second later by an entire police corps (the evoked images are bizarre, and may be the result of the madness of your servant). The most fun is to be had from listening to “Socialist Hip Shit”, that flows on a repetitive almost tribal rhythm, starting with an intense sax solo, moving into a joyful and unrestrained spontaneous singing by both musicians, just to end in an absolutely beautiful solo. We’re already familiar with Sommer’s capabilities, but MacDonald’s playing is absolutely stunning, in pitch, timbre, variation, and he also demonstrates his skills for circular breathing on the last two tracks. Despite the limited line-up and the totally free approach, there really is no boring moment on this album, quite the contrary even, the interaction between these two stellar musicians grabs the listener’s attention from the start until the very end : intensity, suprise, beauty, creative collisions, … If you like free jazz, you will certainly enjoy this one!