Below is a review of The Spectral Life Of Things from The Free Jazz Collective, by Fotis Nikolakopoulos

My problem, as a listener, with jazz pianists is that they tend to dominate a recording or, at least, that they require more room to breathe as soloists. On this, recorded in Paris on April 2017, duo this is definitely not the case. 

Catherine Sikora on the saxophone and Christopher Culpo on the piano present us a recording which is open to interactions and operate clearly by being responsive to one another’s gestures and, sometimes, musical provocations. Flexible sax melodies flow in a parallel way with ethereal piano chords. They possess the warmness of a late 50’s post bop atmosphere. But this is not even close to a tribute performance or a way to give praise to any great master. 

Full of new compositions (I wonder if they all were recorded in one take) they have the urgency of an improvisation but, at the same time, they appear to be a fully realized idea in both minds. The summation of their efforts is a collective one. Each track contains small challenges put from one artist to the other. In a playful mood these challenges tend to pose questions that both of them do not intend to give clear answers. They prefer to leave that to the listener. 

The music is a constant flow of notes and melodies built from solos that are followed by strong collective playing. A linear trajectory of musical gestures that provide no pauses for the listener (i really liked that) with the compositional and more structured moments overcoming the improvisational mood. But it’s those improv parts of the recording that add up to the exploratory final result. 

I pretty much enjoyed and got stimulated by this great recording (one of my favorites for 2018) that I have to nag a little…The medium of the cassette (with only 100 copies made), always prone to wearing down, is unsuitable for The Spectral Life Of Things, which is a demanding recording in need to be listened over and over for numerous times.

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