That these four musicians got together and recorded this nigh on hour-long excursion into stellar improvisation with no rehearsal beforehand is frankly astonishing. Then again, given the calibre of the musicians involved it is almost to be expected. Three of these players featured on last year’s revelatory steamy jungle jazz album Pasar Klewer by Dwiki Dharmawan, the odd man out being Touch Guitar wizard Markus Reuter. Two of London’s ex-pat progressive jazz community form the rhythm section; bassman Yaron Stavi, who has a long association with Robert Wyatt, not to mention Phil Manzanera and David Gilmour, and the rarely unemployed Asif Sirkis, on dextrous but very powerful drums, have a telepathic understanding of where that anchor should be, even in these unchartered waters. Atop that you have two of the most imaginative guitarists around, Markus Reuter of primarily Stick Men fame, although he has many more strings to his bow than that particular combo, and the much in demand Mark Wingfield, known to me for his association with contra guitar maestro Kevin Kastning, itself an entirely different and certainly quieter proposition to what goes down here. Add in all manner of pedal board jiggery pokery and the result is an unrivalled confection of consummate deliciousness.
Listening intently – and you will – to The Stone House, it is hard to remember in places that this is all off the cuff, the arrangements unfolding before the listener, just as they did before the players as they switch attention from the top line to the rhythmic structure and back again with intuitive ease. Reuter is the impressionist, whose swathes of subtle, but sometimes also lurid colour are given high contrast by Wingfield’s Jackson Pollock splashes of brightly coloured spikiness.
Recorded in Catalunya, Spain, these grooves emanate a subtle latent heat, still in evidence even though it was laid down in February. The album moves from spacious ambience to edge-of-seat thrills and back again like a wildly oscillating storm system that refuses to burn out. When this thing motors it inescapably recalls the mighty Crim in their 1973-74 improvisational pomp in the way it takes risks; it is that good! One cannot help but recall Bruford-Wetton at their most ferocious during the tumultuous Silver, with, one assumes, Wingfield manfully screeching in Fripp-like defiance over the relentless sturm und drang of the rhythm section. That track apart, musically it is in a slightly less brutal and often more impressionistic place than where Crim often found themselves, and the last half of closing track Bona Nit Señor Rovira sails away in a stately fashion on a sea of liquid methane. The Stone House is situated in a challenging universe and it should more than satisfy fans of Terje Rydal, David Torn, etc.
The sound throughout is gorgeous, and credit must be given to recording engineer Jesus Rovira, as credited in the closing track title. Mention must be made of guitarist Mark Wingfield who was also responsible for the mixing and mastering back in Cambridgeshire, U.K., for he sure knows his way around a massive mixing desk, oh yes. Together these two have twiddled knobs to great effect.
I will stop now as there is little point in saying more as you can hear for yourself just how right I am by listening to the Bandcamp streaming linked below, where you will also find filmic evidence of the quartet soaring through opening track Rush, and then, of course, you will simply have to buy it!
01. Rush (12:15)
02. Four Moons (5:12)
03. Silver (8:33)
04. Fjords de Catalunya (9:45)
05. Tarasque (10:09)
06. Bona Nit Señor Rovira (13:56)
Total Time – 59:55
Mark Wingfield – Guitar
Markus Reuter – TouchGuitars® AU8
Yaron Stavi – Fretless Bass Guitar
Asaf Sirkis – Drums
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Year of Release: 2017
WRSS – Bandcamp