January/February 1998

Kowald Smith Sommer
Touch The Earth—Break The Shells
FMP/Free Music Production

Recalling the heyday of early AACM, this absorbing trio date seduces the listener into a spacious, colorful realm of improvised music with hauntingly beautiful solos from trumpeter Leo Smith and suspenseful textural shadings from bassist Peter Kowald and percussionist Gunter Sommer. Recorded live in 1979 and 1981 in Berlin, this recording captures the emphatic beauty of one of free jazz's most beloved trios.

The subliminal communication among the trio is magnificently demonstrated on the riveting "Rastafari In The Universe," which finds Smith weaving and darting through a complex rhythmic matrix created by Sommer's rumbling percussion and Peter Kowald's throbbing bass pulses. On "Gebr. Loesch" the vibrant textures created by Kowald's percussive bass and Sommer's orchestral cymbal and bells manipulations border on ambient music as Smith's robust trumpet soars, flutters and dovetails through the soundscape. Both Smith and Sommer's imaginative usage of bells, organ pipes, African thumb piano and flute, alongside Kowald's command of bass effects, provide the ensemble with richly colorful sonic collages that belie their trio format, especially on such festive workouts like "Touch The Earth" and "Wind Song In A Dance Of Unity." Both wild and peaceful, Touch The Earth-Break the Shells, is an invigorating post-Art Ensemble of Chicago experience.

Originally published in January/February 1998
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