Gary Hassay and Michael Bisio: My Brother

The red mandala-shaped image on the cover of My Brother suggests the introspective nature of the improvised set recorded by alto sax player Gary Hassay and bassist Michael Bisio. The 11 pieces on the album reflect an Oriental mindset in the improvisations. That Hassay chants in “Sun Dog” what seems to have Tibetan sources tells as much of a story as the remaining musical statements that possess a similar voice in their brevity, directness and linearity.

Hassay is beholden to Bisio, who expands the sax player’s phrasings through imitation of their dynamic. The contrariness that builds an energetic repartée does not exist here. That may be the purpose: for the two musicians to bond in the similarity of expressions as opposed to converse with each other in a manner that would separate the players in the playing. The sonic differences are apparent in the character of tone, register and attack. Certainly, emanating from the reeds comes a sharpness, shrillness and metallic softness; from the bass, roundness in how the strings are plucked and bowed. Distinct harmonies are not necessarily struck; nor is there any synchronization.

The music is calming and essential rather than electric and extroverted. Each musician breathes and exercises a natural control that comes with instinct and moving at an even pace, one step at a time.