The Wire review by Stuart Broomer

The Ames Room – Bird Dies (CF 231)
There’s an intriguing contradiction offered in the slim verbal materials that accompany this CD. The band name “Ames Room” refers to the asymmetrical room with a horizon line often used in film to create optical illusions, making two things of the same size appear very different in scale or creating the effect of a ball rolling uphill. Contrary to those illusions, the title Bird Dies is grim contradiction to the old jazz sentiment, “Bird Lives.” Put them together and you may sense the different perspective that the trio of alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet, bassist Clayton Thomas and drummer Will Guthrie bring to jazz—insistently in the moment, time-loaded and  (almost) history-free, a music with few allusions in which the group has left illusions in its name. This is among the most consistently intense performances I can recall hearing, consistent in the sense that a sauce might be, intense in the sense of a beating. The single track—yes, Bird Dies—is 46 minutes long and it begins with Guionnet chewing up and spitting out short phrases, varying them incrementally, repeating the same process with another phrase, and doing it with the efficiency and timbre (and sometimes the pitch range) of a circular saw or wood chipper, while Clayton pumps out an insistent pulse and Guthrie creates an endless rebar knit-work of shifting and broken drum rhythms. The phrases and the rhythms change and sometimes the sound thins out—Guthrie goes down to a light rattle or moves around his kit or mounts a particularly violent barrage, Guionnet reduces the line to one or two squawks and actually stops playing for about forty seconds around the half-hour mark whether to regroup or highlight Clayton playing a scale in polyrythmic lock-step with Guthrie. However, the sense of a single extraordinary utterance remains, exhausting and also liberating, its time experienced both insistently and microscopically.

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