Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald, "Live at Kassiopeia," 1987

When two artists the caliber of Julius Hemphill and Peter Kowald left this world, they left a creative vacuum in their wake. Certainly there were and are others carrying the torch for the new improvisational music, but the singular musical personalities of these two artists were not and cannot be replaced. So when new and vital performance recordings emerge of either these days, it is an occasion. And when they are playing together as a duet, even more so.

Such is the case with the new issue Live in Kassiopeia (No Business 2-CD NBCD 35-36), captured live in January 1987. The first disk features long solo improvisations by both artists individually; the second brings them together in duet.

The two are in great form. They generate the kind of results together that can only come about when the chemistry is right. It most certainly was. Hemphill is in extraordinary voice, his dry and whirlwind way around both soprano and alto is impeded by no obstacles and Kowald responds in kind with a barrage of notes and textures that complement what Mr. Hemphill is doing with all the melodic-vertical and double-stop brilliance he can conjure.

It IS a night of brilliance. The root-scaffolding of the music is left visible at times, like in the boppish solo improv Hemphill inaugurates the set with. But the going beyond puts us all in a place that one can only contemplate with a certain awe.

These were two masters, frozen in time now, 1987, but living and breathing through this recording as the titans they were, and are.

I'll say no more. Highly recommended.

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