Paris-based trumpeter Timotheé Quost, Chicago/NY-based cellist/guitarist Ishmael Ali, and Chicago-based drummer Bill Harris are adepts of long-form improvisation. Their first recording, Dawá, showcases the complexity of their sounds, which exist beyond genre or convention. Free improvisation fuses with conspicuous electronic rudiments, leading to three structurally unpredictable tracks delivered with explorative momentum and textural panache.
The eventful “Capsaicin” squeezes in tingling digital noises, cluttered rhythms, and trumpet’s squeaks, cackles, and air notes into an intensive sound design. Continuous, pitch-swooping interferences accompany both the pizzicato and the arco cello explorations. Terse trumpet murmurs develop into complete phrases and fixed rhythmic ideas fly atop avalanche-style drumming and guitar textures outlined by strumming and plucking techniques. The sounds made me picture curious chemical reactions.
Usually opting for dismembered and shapeless forms, it’s pretty clear that the trio’s sense of epiphany lives from a free flow combination of disparate sounds rather than any sort of lyrical approach. “Camphor” proves what I’ve just said by lingering a long time in this singular enigmatic world where sequential metallic noises and electrified drones with impulse interference stimulate our imagination. The ebbs and flows on the last third of this piece accumulate free jazz shapes with no tempo concerns. That’s when Quost’s ostinati and casual phrasing ramble through the irregular undulations provided by active cello and frisky drum charges. Percussive blowouts help expanding strong electromagnetic fields in the piece's concluding segment.
Despite of the chirping sounds and high-pitched arco cello scrapes at the outset, “Claret” seems to have been influenced by heavy industrial sounds. The busy scenario is built upon lashing rhythms, insistent noises, and prolonged beeps. At some point, you have mallet drumming profundity supporting the trumpet’s extended techniques, but in the final moments, it’s Ali’s eccentric open guitar chords in contrapuntal communication with Harris’ effusive snare drum attacks that support vagabond trumpet lines. Consistently interactive, the trio applies refreshingly unfamiliar ingredients to their electro-acoustic abrasions, playing them with both moderation and asperity as convenient. It’s a fact that some phases work better than others, but overall, this record should please listeners trying to escape conventions.
Written for Jazz Trail
«Dawá» documents the first-ever, free-improvised meeting of French, Paris-based trumpeter Timotheé Quost with like-minded Americans, cellist-guitarist Ishmael Ali who splits his time between Chicago and New York and Chicagoan drummer Bill Harris. Quost worked before with Danish sax master Lotte Anker and leads his quintet, Quostet. Ali and Harris work together in another free-improv outfit, the Errata trio, and collaborate in the post-progressive-acid jazz-funk-hip hop septet je’raf. These improvisers add electronics to their arsenal. Their meeting was recorded live at Orotund Music, Chicago in April 2019.
This one-off trio manages to cover many bases in its spontaneous, electro-acoustic journey, moving from wild timbral exploration, through experimenting with raw noises, fleeting, brief rhythmic patterns, and abstract soundscapes to brutal, urgent textures, without attaching itself to any strategy or sonic course. The sudden usage of raw, noisy electronics promises that no one would even try to stick to any pattern or pulse. But out of the high-energy and restless cacophony of the first piece, «Capsaicin», Quost outlines a lyrical theme, rooted in the post-bop legacy, while Al and Harris still insist on conflictual, free-form kind of free-improvisation.
The second piece «Camphor» offers a totally different strategy. It is a sparse and abstract soundscape, subtle but still restless, and focused on patient and methodical, collective timbral research that often flirts with the electronic, explosive noises. This improvisation constantly adds more nuances and colors into its fresh, layered blend of strange, challenging sounds, and only towards its end settles on a loose and fast-shifting rhythmic pattern that allows Quost to develop a complex theme. The third and last piece «Claret» first alternates between a subtle, playful melody, articulated by cellist Ali, and the abrupt sounds and noises and the percussive hammering of Quost and Harris. But later it explores another sparse texture, now over the rolling drums of Harris, with an organic flow and great focus for detail, until, eventually it concludes with a fiery, free-jazz storm.
Written by Eyal Hareuveni for Salt Peanuts
By this original and well-timed collaboration, Timothée Quost continues his emancipatory exploration. This recording is the trace of a first meeting between the French trumpeter and two American musicians: the cellist / guitarist Ishmael Ali, based in Chicago and New York, as well as the drummer Bill Harris, of Chicago.
These three compare their experiments and harmonize their slippages. There emerges an idea of choreography, fluidity. The apparent harshness is actually a subtle combination of sensitive, fragile sounds, which open up endless possibilities for improvisation. A nostalgia enters between the electronic interstices which confront a striking acoustics. The care given to the sound aesthetics of the record is not anecdotal in its success.
The more you look at Dawá, the more you get the impression of bebop, of a link to very deep musical roots, which lead to flowering in 2020. The alchemy worked, and Dawá, like a Polaroid, testifies to this moment recorded in one day, completely spontaneous. And very well played.
Written by Raphaël Benoit for Citizen Jazz
Part of the appeal of improvised music is the spontaneity of it: fleeting moments that briefly appear within the shifting timbres, rhythms, and textures of the art.
This album, Dawa, marks such a meeting. The recording is a documentation of a first meeting between Paris-based trumpet player, composer & improviser Timotheé Quost, Chicago/New York-based cellist, guitarist, and improviser Ishmael Ali, and Chicago-based drummer & improviser Bill Harris.
Approaching the session with fresh ears, the trio navigates their shared musical landscape work curiosity, intuition, and vigor. Brutal high-energy spaces are contrasted by subtle, ambient soundscapes. Their electro-acoustic approach interweaves acoustic sounds with various electronics, leading the listener into surprising, unfamiliar spaces.
The trio will be touring throughout the Midwest and East Coast in support of the record in March of 2020.
Timotheé Quost - Trumpet, electronics
Ishmael Ali - Cello, guitar, electronics
Bill Harris - Drums, electronics
Recorded live at Orotund Music, Chicago, on April 8, 2019 by Bill Harris.
Mixed and mastered by Ishmael Ali and Bill Harris.
Artwork by Will McEvilly.