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Index of SEMJA reviews


Recent Recordings by Area Musicians


From listening to Shards, it is readily apparent that multi-reedist Piotr Michalowski (here on soprano saxophone) and violinist Mike Khoury have been improvising together for several years. Recorded in March–June of 2004, Shards: Sixteen Duets For Violin and Soprano Saxophone (Friends and Relatives Records, email) is a collection of 16 duo improvisations that depict the development of a shared language that sounds and speaks as one. Yet, there are many strains of musical influence at work here, and several passages even sound unified enough to resemble contemporary chamber music.

"Improv. No. 3" starts with Michalowski's overblown multiphonics and Khoury's jete (ricochet) bowing. Khoury then moves to ghostly, minor-pentatonic blues references while Michalowski counters with abstract, blue cries. Improvs. 7 and 12 find the duo exploring the expressive power of sound, while other tracks feature an often dense, melodic interplay.

Shards also plays with our expectations of time. Though these improvisations are non-pulsed, nonetheless there is a sensation of time passing at a well-defined and patient pace; there is a shared sense of timing, a rhythm of events. These improvisations are each unique occurrences that move forward in a stream, and rarely refer back in time to previous events; many ideas flicker to the surface. Therefore, close and attentive listening is advised!

It will be interesting to trace the trajectory of this empathetic duo as they continue to refine and expand their sound.

Mark Kirschenmann is a trumpeter and composer who teaches at the University of Michigan. He directs the Creative Arts Orchestra and the Michigan Youth Jazz Improvisation program.

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