The pairing of guitarist Scott DuBois’ guitar and Gebhard Ullmann’s reeds (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet) at first seems like a study in contrasts. DuBois shows a pensive lyrical approach to his instrument, while Ullmann maintains his identity as member of the European avant-garde. Yet the two lead voices also swap identities and ideas, which makes for an unpredictable and compelling ride, due in part to DuBois’ writing and the direction forged by bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Kresten Osgood.
“Mid to the West” begins in a rubato, tranquil mood until the rhythm section kicks in and DuBois heads outward, all the while holding onto the subtle lyricism of the opening theme. “Canaria” is a ballad that stays that way for nine minutes, in which Ullmann’s bass clarinet gets a little wily but ultimately minds its manners in a Dolphy-esque way. That same instrument factors heavily into “Mouse Song,” where it stays just beneath the surface of the rhythm section’s out-of-tempo setting. The nine-minute “Old Man on Platform” rolls along in much the same exploratory manner as “Canaria” until the last three minutes, when the tempo kicks into high gear and DuBois lets some sparks fly.
A title like Banshees might imply caterwauling freedom from this group. However, they deliver something more rewarding that doesn’t lend itself to simple categorization.