ISKRA 1903



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PHILIPP WACHSMANN amplified violin & electronics
BARRY GUY amplified double bass

3 - WACHSMANN AM MAIN - solo - 9:13
4 - RUTHERFORD AM MAIN - solo - 8:05
5 - GUY AM MAIN - solo - 8:07

Analogue concert recording by RÜDIGER CARL - Frankfurt am Main (Portikus) - 1991 October 1
Total time 74:47

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

"The second edition of Iskra 1903 lasted from about 1977 to 1995, yet only one recording has been published up to now - a 1992 Vancouver performance that appeared on Maya. Numerous other performances were recorded, one of them being this superb 1991 Frankfurt concert.

All three musicians were obviously in fine form, right from the start of the opening 33 minute piece which comprised the first half of the concert. This is a trio performance for most of its journey, with all three musicians contributing superbly to make a very fine whole. However, there are some shortish sections where just the strings or the trombone are playing.

For the second half of the concert, it was decided to play a short trio, then have three separate solos, followed by another trio. Unfortunately, the cassette used for the recording ran out before the final piece finished, so the ending is lost. Apart from this, the music played at the concert is presented here complete in the order of performance."

Martin Davidson (2001)


Excerpts from reviews:

"Outside of Peter Brotzmann and Derek Bailey, I am not certain there are many players, European or otherwise, that maintain such sustained reverence from their peers as Paul Rutherford. And deservedly so, since I know of very few musicians as uncompromising as the British trombonist.

While the trombone has languished in mediocrity over the past three decades, with the exception of a select number, on American shores, the European improvisers who call the trombone their home have continued its forward development and pushed the envelope to levels unthinkable forty years ago. Players like Rutherford, Gunter Christmann, and Konrad Bauer have given new life to an instrument relegated to the third row in big bands.

Rutherford, in particular, has risen above the ashes and blazed his own path with a sound so distinct, I can usually name that tune in three notes. Here, he is paired with violinist Philipp Wachsmann and bassist Barry Guy (both amplified) for a live concert recorded in 1991. Frankfurter Memories is a half hour plus improvisational jamboree with Wachsmann and Guy furiously plucking and bowing away following Rutherford's nimble quotes. The piece requires steadfast attentiveness since the electro-acoustic trio throws ideas around like they were footballs, casually tossing them back and forth. It is intriguing even in its simplest form and stimulating in its most challenging. A series of solo improvisational spots from the three members follows with a technical how to from Rutherford that is superbly euphoric and concludes with another trio number.

A terrific recording, Iskra 1903 is about as good as it gets."


"A rousing demonstration of the art of collective improvisation by a trio of masters."


"This magnificent concert, from FRANKFURT (1991), opens with a long trio performance whereas the second set is split up with solo spots. On the collective Frankfurter Memories Barry Guy's deep splats and bow abrading bass scrunches, along with Wachsmann's aching legato whistling strings, perfectly sandwich Paul Rutherford's meaty blurts and long swooping lines. The contrast between Wachsmann's high scraps and Guy's low grumbles is difficult to resist; likewise is the united drama of their unison bowing. The trio's intense interaction often glides into passages of delicate luminosity. All three solos are masterpieces. Guy's prancing pizzicato fingers leave him high in a haze of bass dust as he amplifies the vapours of his tonal gymnastics. Wachsmann's use of electronics subtly transforms his playing adding a fiddler pal or two, or some birdsong effects, without letting the electronica dominate. Rutherford's solo is full of belchy vocalised trombone and after a bit of effort he follows through with some wet farts. If you buy only one Emanem CD this week make sure it is this one."


"This second edition of the trio, with Rutherford's fleet multiphonics, Guy's lithe bass, and Wachsmann's lush abstractions on violin and electronics, provides a context for spontaneous improvisation with an almost orchestral scope. From the first notes of the 33-minute Frankfurter Memories, the three click in, charting out intricately interwoven interactions that develop a dramatic arc. The improvisation flows with an elastic dynamism as each of the players in turn steers the focus. Rutherford's clarion, rounded tone imbues the playing with a soulful, free tunefulness. Guy moves from percussive, ricocheting pizzicato to warm, resonant arco as he spontaneously shapes and balances the proceedings. Wachsmann's violin adds a vivid density with complexly layered bowed lines extended into shimmering refractions by the subtle use of electronics. This release is worth checking out for the solos alone, each of which display an instrumental virtuosity guided by a masterful ability to shape improvisations of multifaceted freedom. The only thing that mars the recording a bit is the somewhat inconclusive ending of the final piece, which was clipped short as the tape ran out. But the collective efforts ultimately win over, making this such an engaging release."


"This concert was recorded by saxophonist Rudiger Carl, and it's easy to see why it demanded to be released. The music has the helter skelter velocity and lyricism of musicians who are utterly on the case, and the analogue recording is brilliantly clean and powerful.

Unlike many doyens of extended technique, Paul Rutherford isn't embarssed by the straightahead sound of his trombone, and his clean lustrous notes are beautiful. All three musicians are aggressively articulate. Guy uses amplification less for volume than to extend his sonic palette, and his scythings and abrasions have a powerful effect, causing the others to dig deep into their resources.

Rutherford is a volatile and nervy player, not so much rejecting the various legacies that inform his ear - JJ Johnson's suave ease, Bach's modulating logic, Wagner's sonic density - as citing them in order to turn them into question marks. He's astonishingly quick in responding to the others. With an instrument as big as a trombone, it's a little like watching a tank turn pirouettes. By choosing string players who were using electricity to bring into audibility effects which are normally too quiet to hear, Rutherford infuses his purely acoustic sound production with urgent modernist impulses. There's lyricism and tenderness here, but continually under threat from a brutally urban sens of noise and speed.

Free improvisation of this calibre strips music naked, making the intelligence and energy of of active playing the only guarantee of continuity. When it works, as here, it's as near to the pure essence of musicality you're likely to hear."


"The sprawling Frankfurter Memories is rife with fitful bursts and lurching stops, which cleave the music into manageable parcels while at the same time disrupting an even flow. In between are interludes of relative repose where the three improvisers confer and regroup before the next leap into more rambunctious interplay. Rutherford's brass vacillates from austere legato lines to eructative blats often poking at the same note or phrase to the point of almost obsessive exaggeration. With a similar flair for the flamboyant Guy's fingers and bow scurry and worry across his strings creating spiky harmonic streaks in answer to the trombonist's moist outbursts. Wachsmann's lighter strings are no less trenchant when courted by bow yielding fulminating clouds of arco static. But even with these kinds of baroque displays of collective bravura an undercurrent of moody ill humour remains palpable in the music. Later in the piece the violinist offers up chamber-like strands of melancholy underscored by Guy's seesaw counterpoint. The bassist eventually batters his bow against strings creating a clattering racket of rhythmically spaced hummingbird tones. Rutherford caps the piece off with a lofty final dissertation that dissipates without much resolution.

Consequently After the Interval works much like an addendum to its predecessor further exploring the free associative terrain, but this time with Wachsmann accessing his electronics console for part of the piece. His application of looping and what sounds like live sampling effects conjures seismic waves that propagate outward in a manner akin to techniques regularly employed by fellow violinist Paul Giger. Electronics also play a large role in his solo improvisation, the first of three designed to feature each player in isolation. Rutherford uses his time alone to experiment with timbre and volume, trading terse stentorian blasts with elongated guttural growls. Guy is the last to be heard sans partners and he brings up the rear with a solo exposition that is arguably the best of the bunch. Weaving a wiry radiating web of plucked and scraped sounds he makes clever use of volume pedal swells to further expand the resonating properties of his instrument.

Based not only on the quality of this music, but also on the relative poverty of this group's discography this disc is easily recommended to listeners with an appreciation for free improvisation. In a field of music where anomalous aggregations are almost a common currency Iskra 1903 still harbours a unique voice."


"This trio, with its unusual instrumentation, has quite a distinctive sound. And unlike a lot of free-improv groups, which cast aside as much energy as they are able to retain, this group seems to focus in order to build momentum. Rutherford may craft a melodic line of legato tones while Wachsmann and Guy convene to offer harmonic cues and demarcate the turns in his route. Or the members of the group might suddenly meet, discover disagreement, and forge a shared path out of the wilderness. Progress might mean thumping, scratching noises out of Guy's bass or swerving microtonal double-stops from Wachsmann's violin, or both. It might mean evolving call-and-response wailing or stuttering atonal exchanges. But the personalities here seem more interested in sticking together than falling apart.

They take their opportunity to fall apart completely in the second set, where each player takes the stage separately. This segment is particularly poignant given the impressive solo work each of these players has put on disc. Wachsmann's solo fills up the empty space with higher-order harmonics and electronic echoes. He builds a deliberate architecture of (mostly) high-register tones by crafting individual fragments and then assembling them together into an over-arching framework. Rutherford, on the other hand, draws his inspiration from melody and vocalisation. His performance, while anything but linear, often resembles the human voice. He devotes much of his effort to dynamic tension and resolution, and you'll even catch him swinging once or twice. Barry Guy, who covers the widest tonal range of these three players, accompanies himself in a surreal sort of way that occasionally borders on schizophrenic. He'll tap and tinkle up top while imposing an irregular bass metronome, or he'll bow a heart-felt harmonised line that interrupts itself regularly with distractions from above or below.

After the solos, the players returns to the group setting recharged, reinvigorated, and eager to move. The final track (unfortunately interrupted after seven minutes, though tastefully so) contains some of the highest-intensity playing on the disc, along with regular moments of starkly beautiful melodicism. "


"First comes a very solid long improv, 33 minutes of complex interaction with many highlights, including a beautiful, concise, and humble ending. The second part of the concert opened with a shorter trio, also nice although not as strong as the first one, followed by three solos. Wachsmann am Main is an occasion to study more closely the violinistıs use of electronics. His delays and effects are not the least intrusive and show maybe one of the best uses of technology to expand one instrumentıs possibilities without changing its nature altogether. The other two solos are up to standards. The aptly titled To the End of the Tape runs around aimlessly during the first couple of minutes. After seven minutes the strings retreat to leave the trombone on the front line. The track stops elegantly (considering the circumstances) at the end of a descending phrase."


"Iskra 1903 concluded activity in 1974, but Rutherford reconvened the group in 1977, with Phil Wachsmann's violin replacing Bailey's guitar. They performed sporadically for the next 15 years and were documented only posthumously, with the ISKRA/NCKPA 1903 CD [Maya], which is now joined by FRANKFURT 1991, a welcome addition to the group's sadly sparse discography. The group's dynamic quickly becomes apparent, as does the fact that this incarnation of Iskra 1903 is, compared to it s '70s predecessor, a completely different animal. Guy and Wachsmann restrict themselves to bowing only, sparking heatedly and generating much tonal friction, while Rutherford chortles away colourfully atop them, frequently prodded by the two into freewheeling, brassy bursts. They continue in much the same manner, give or take some rises and falls in intensity, over 7 mins of the concluding track, which cuts off abruptly when the recording device's reel ran out. It's preceded by exemplary solos from each member, further illustrating their individual abilities: Rutherford interspersing playful runs with garbled voicings, Wachsmann's stringent overtonal bowing, Guy's aggressive gymnastics. A disc that might well jolt you out of any cynicism you're feeling - justified or otherwise - towards the genre, this is wonderfully vivacious music."



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