Garrett Harris noon, March 10
- "Jeff Kaiser, Phil Skaller : Endless Pie" (Nov. 8, 2012)
Trumpet and piano duos are a relatively rare commodity in jazz — and this collaboration between Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller is not going to remind anyone of Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Roberts. For that matter, Endless Pie is a disc so severe that it makes Raphe Malik and Cecil Taylor sound like Ruby Braff and Dick Hyman.
Endless Pie is a double CD, each disc leading off with an appropriately monstrous tour-de-force. "Unchangeable Fundament," kicks off Disc 1, Kaiser's fat smears layering over tinkling piano before morphing into hilarious vocalizations that have a schizophrenic quality. All the while, Skaller invents a backdrop of grueling, muted repetitions and instrumental disguises from his prepared piano, which can imitate alien textures, forces-of-nature and cartoonish gibberish. As the pianist narrows in on stuttering repetitions that reminded me of a stenographer with OCD, Kaiser unleashes an obscene series of overdriven squeaks like a balloon being molested by a seriously unbalanced child.
Kaiser uses trumpet, flugelhorn and his voice, in tandem with live electronics (a lap-top running Max MSP). So, despite what you think you are hearing, there are no overdubs and just these two musicians.
On "Image of a Punctiform," Skaller's prepared piano rumbles, plinks and breaks into passages of basso-profondo while Kaiser's acoustic horn races along like a drunken "Flight of the Bumblebee," before loping into leviathan foghorns followed by tortured split-tones.
The pianist obtains a strange brew of koto-meets music box aesthetic on "Alongside A Moving Tower," and weird percussive inside the piano effects on "Two Unknowns, the One Being," over which Kaiser applies wide swaths of rubbery vibrato.
Disc 2 opens with "The Puppet Does Not Have a Soul," Skaller's manic fingerings recalling Cecil Taylor at a toy-piano. Each musician contributes to an exhaustive exchange of energetic discourse--tossing ideas like poison daggers, building swells of caterwaul and dropping into moments of near silence. Kaiser sputters, screeches and blows columns of smog into his mouthpiece before the piece transitions into an intense and disturbing squeal-athon that sounds like a wolverine raiding a ferret nest.
"Occurred without Noticeable," by contrast, features tiny microgestures where Skaller's piano imitates a can being kicked, or crickets in the night while Kaiser burbles and bubbles like soup on a low boil.
For those with an ear tuned toward adventure, Endless Pie is indispensable. Where else are you going to find titles like "Galileo Uses Propaganda," or "Anticipated by Bacon"? Endless Fun could easily have been the name for this highly entertaining disc.
— Robert Bush