Free improvisation can use a laugh now and again. Last time drummer Weasel Walter and guitarist Mary Halvorson recorded together, they called their duet disc Opulence, and titled their squalls in a direction that celebrated the good life. “Faberge Eggs Filled With Caviar” and “A Diamond Encrusted Frisbee” were typical tracks, but by the time “Bald Eagle Tartar Washed Down With a Cup of Melted Gold” rolled around, the silliness at hand was revealed. Comprised of choppy string storms, chattering percussion tsunamis and disorienting dissonance, the music wasn’t built for kings and queens. It did provide a nice jab in the eye for the occasional haughtiness of “art,” however.
One of the attractions of their follow up – this time with trumpeter Peter Evans on board – is the unpretentious way it presents itself. Yes, the abstractions they concoct on Electric Fruit have a rich atmosphere. Halvorson’s strings can be wonderfully gooey, Evans’ horn sprays can fill up plenty of space, and the Wease’s addled thumpery is a giddy environment at all times. But there’s a disarming it-is-what-it-is tone to this music, and it attracts listeners to the sharp turns of the trio’s interplay. Whether whispering to each other or wailing together, these three walk off the edge of a cliff so we can sit on the edge of our seats.
The landscape is always in flux. The drummer has a yen for death metal, so aggression is part of the palette. The trumpeter is expert at post-bop filigree, so fanfare is in the mix as well. Halvorson, whose comparatively straight Saturn Sings was applauded by lots of jazz critics last year, roams her instrument’s neck, generating a parade of textures; psychedelic fuzz might be followed by the gentlest of plinks. “The Stench of Cyber-Durian” puts variants of each to use, and like “Scuppernong Malfunction,” it reminds that, in this throttling program, all the action takes place in the synapses. Let’s hear it for kinetics.