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January/February 2007

Dominic Duval String Quartet
Mountain Air
CIMP Recordings

Those looking for a jazz recording here, even an experimental one, would be looking in the wrong place: Mountain Air sits squarely in the avant-classical realm, but the spirit of jazz heavily permeates it. “Led” by Dominic Duval, one of Cecil Taylor’s more frequent bassists, this session is largely inspired by the pianist in that the quartet—rounded out by Ron Lawrence (Soldier String Quartet, James Blood Ulmer, Mark Dresser) on viola, Gregor Huebner (Richie Beirach, Harvie Swartz) on violin and Tomas Ulrich (Steve Swell, Kevin Norton, Yuko Fujiyama) on cello—jumps to fresh terrain before examining an idea or motif for too long. This is nervous music that requires intensive, yet rewarding, listening. The quartet incessantly saws away, skittering from theme to theme, with Duval holding it all together with confident plucking and a supple, resonant tone. Counterpoint melodies and staccato bursts are plentiful, as are weeping glissando and fluctuating tempo changes. There are unquestionably hints of Bartok and Stravinsky throughout, making these mini-symphonies an intriguing blend of free jazz and 20th-century classical.

Originally published in January/February 2007
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