Album Review: Diachronic Paths (2016) by Rafal Mazur-Keir Neuringer Duo

Mazur/Neuringer – Diachronic Paths

Relative Pitch CD (2016)

Recorded November 13, 2013 in Krakow, Poland

Personnel:

  • Keir Neuringer (alto saxophone)
  • Rafal Mazur (bass guitar)

Review

Bass and Saxophone duo Mazur/Neuringer journey through an improvised song set that is at times equal parts playful, fierce and inventive. The duo of Philadelphia-based saxophonist Keir Neuringer and Polish bassist Rafal Mazur have established a tight and fertile creative partnership that has produced three prior full length projects: The Kraków Letters (For Tune, 2014), Unison Lines (Not Two, 2010), and improwizje (Insubordinations, 2010). Diachronic Paths (2016) finds the duo further developing their deep improvisational skills through a song cycle that is surprisingly busy and dense despite its minimal instrumentation.

The album opens with “Initial Path” a somber blues abstraction that steadily increases in tempo and intensity before settling back into the softer, introspective feel established at the beginning of the piece. Throughout the album each piece is animated by restless, exploratory performances in which Mazur’s bass and Neuringer’s sax jump, twist and intertwine with one another in a playful exercise of timing and reaction that is clearly the result of deep and intentional listening. The overall tone of these performances alternate from fierce intensity and reserved blues/chamber ambiance, giving the listener a wide range of emotional and sonic landscapes to navigate.

“Third Path” is another strong performance with Neuringer’s spiraling sax lines hanging suspended in air like a dense fog while Mazur’s bass dances swiftly, its acoustic tone and Mazur’s rapid fire runs surprisingly reminiscent of the great fusion bassists of the 1970s. On the latter half of the album, the duo’s sound grows even more and abstract. On “Fifth Path” Neuringer’s tone is sharper and more ragged, screeching out lines with controlled abandon while Mazur’s nimble and steady bass seems to be referencing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s Hip Hop classic “White Lines” (especially around the 5:40 mark) before sinking into a serene odd-metered walking line that provides support for Neuringer’s softer tones that he explores toward the end of the piece.

Throughout each of the lengthy pieces found on Diachronic Paths, ideas are introduced and established to varying degrees of immediacy but it is clear that the journey itself is of paramount importance. There is little here that resembles accessible melodies or catchy motifs. This music is not about that. This is the sound of two musicians who know one another (more importantly they know how to listen to one another) traveling into deeply uncharted territory of freely improvising performance and recording the results.

–John Morrison, June 9, 2016

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