Axel Dörner/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang: Claque

It’s not unusual for free-improvisation sessions to feature extended experiments with pure sound, but rarely is such a task approached with the sort of delightful playfulness that distinguishes Claque, a dynamic meeting between Germany’s Axel Dorner and Chicago’s Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang. Dorner is one of the most exciting and broad-minded trumpet players in the world right now; he can find new harmonic twists in Thelonious Monk tunes just as naturally and masterfully as he can blow striated columns of painterly hiss. On Claque he plays with abstract sound so boldly and inventively he could make Bill Dixon blush.

Dorner’s palpable enthusiasm for unleashing new sounds-from spit-flecked puffs to saxophonic pops to a killer simulation of a car engine trying to turn over-is wonderfully and empathetically enhanced by cellist Lonberg-Holm and drummer Zerang, who nonchalantly tag-team with unending textural and percussive trickery. Trumpet, cello and percussion wouldn’t seem to share many timbral effects, but it’s often difficult to figure out who’s doing what. “Kasu,” for example, is a rolling patter of metallic-sounding thwacks, taps and scrapes that evokes myriad shades of gray, yet even when Dorner offers more conventional brass tones, as on “Ranzen,” the quick-blink reflexes of Lonberg-Holm and Zerang are at once so intuitive and disorienting that the trumpeter may as well be playing a belt sander, a testament to the trio’s sense of sonic creativity. Rather than revealing pet licks and favorite gimmicks, repeated listening only delivers a greater array of clever details.