Ballister – Chrysopoeia (Aerophonic Records / Not Two Records, 2022)

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Ballister is a long standing collective jazz band featuring milti-reed instrumentalist Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. This album consists of two long pieces recorded at Alchemia in Krakow, Poland in October of 2019. “Strappling” begins fast and fierce with harsh saxophone and drums creating an exciting racket held together by rapidly bowed cello. The intensity of their sound is a cathartic release, and the torrential sound from all three instruments is thrilling to hear. A drum feature for Nilssen-Love slows things down a bit, with sawing cello meeting him halfway, and Lonberg-Holm’s electronics giving the proceedings an otherworldly touch. The music moves in a graceful manner as the volume and intensity builds back up dynamically with the reappearance of Rempis’s gutsy saxophone. He plays unaccompanied for a minute, soon joined by electronic textures and drumming to weave a knotty collective improvisation that nears a relentless forward motion as the performance ends. Unaccompanied cello swirls open “Muffit” where long tones of saxophone are met by cymbal sounds, creating a unique musical environment, which ebb and flow. Quiet drums and saxophone flutter and feint then lock in and take flight as the high pitched soaring horn with overblown elements and pummeling drums are rejoined by the cello as the band explodes like fireworks, finding a frenzied groove in Nilssen-Love’s tribal beat propels the spirited saxophone, touched by the alien sounding electronics of amplified cello. The band builds to a lean three way improvisation, shorn of extraneous parts, pushing to a muscular potent conclusion. This was an extraordinary album, one of the year’s best to be sure. There is a misconception that free jazz is a fearsome juggernaut, but there is so much more going on here, leading to an emotional, heartfelt statement. Chrysopoeia – Aerophonic Bandcamp

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