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Khoury / Shearer / Hall - Braille

-motive 9
-motive 8
-motive 5
-motive 10
-motive 4
-motive 7
-motive 3

Mike Khoury - Violin
Jason Shearer - Clarinet
Ben Hall - Percussion

(Vital Weekly no. 431) Still on the lines of improvisation but more traditional than the other ones is the disc by Micheal Khoury on violin, Jason Shearer on saxophone and Benjamin Hall on percussion. Kind of an odd combination of instruments here, but it somehow works alright. Unnoticed I played this CDR at a considerable low volume two times in a row, and it's slight dissonant music with slight klezmer influences were just very pleasent to play around, while doing all these other things and not noting the music all the time. - Frans de Waard

(Touching Extremes 10/31/2004) Credit these guys with courage and taste in equivalent doses, as the music they improvise is difficult AND very beautiful. Khoury's violin animates the muse of discovery, roaming about the inherent open structure of the pieces, providing a heartfelt statement of creativity; Shearer plays clarinet in truly inspiring fashion, choosing the right holes to look into while glueing complex visuals and candid annihilations of any trace of boredom one could expect. Hall's task on percussion is not one of the easiest but he too succeeds, by a perfect understanding of the sound dynamics in open minded coordination, going from background commentary to contrapuntal extensions. Listening to musicians like these is an underrated treat, likely to polish your ears from tons of stupid riffage and idiotic posing. - Massimo Ricci

(Foxy Digitalis) Mike Khoury has been playing in improvisational ensembles for awhile now, but none have produced results as memorable as his trio with Jason Shearer and Ben Hall. Khoury is a highly skilled violinist and hearing him apply his talent in an avant-garde, free jazz setting is impressive. He is accompanied by Hall's spastic drumming and Shearer's saxophone explorations. On "Braille," this trio impressively feels their way through jagged corners and abrupt turns, creating a relaxing mesh of raw sound. Even though most free jazz records are based around a model that's over a half-century old, Khoury, Shearer, and Hall do very impressive things within those confines. Throughout these seven tracks, or "motives" as they're called, the overall theme feels like a fairytale. Khoury's violin playing is the centerpiece to most tracks, but it’s the interplay with Shearer's saxophone that make this album listenable, and not a jumbled mess. On "Motive 10," Khoury and Shearer do some nice call-and-response, showing their ear for what each other is playing. At one point, Khoury plays his violin like a guitar which acts as more of a complement to Hall's methodic drumming. Listening to this, I can't help but feeling transported to New Orleans or Chicago circa 1930. Even though avant-garde improv like this didn't come around until later, there's an early '30s feel to it. It mostly is because of the way Shearer blows his horn, but when Khoury starts playing more melodic passages on the violin, it adds to the effect. Track after track, this trio does an excellent job of building on tension and finding ways to release it. The real stress emanates from Hall's drumming. It's sporadic in just the right way and gives the violin and saxophone a foundation to jump around on. As Khoury and Shearer go back and forth between who takes the lead, their wailing tones coalesce into a cathartic release. Each track is similar, but works toward the greater good and gives this album a distinct feeling. It's fantastic. I'm never quite sure how to approach a review of improvisational free jazz, but the bottom line is that this release is very good. It isn't a train wreck of sound like a great deal of free jazz is. This trio has a strong sense of melody and it comes through loudly on "Braille." There is a lot of freedom here, but they don't abuse it to create an impenetrable racket. If more free jazz was like this, I'd listen to it a lot more. - Brad Rose

(Aiding & Abetting no. 256) Michael Khoury, Jason Shearer, Benjamin Hall; violin, sax, percussion. Not exactly a traditional trio, and not exactly a traditional sound. The songs sound like they've been sketched out, but not actually arranged. There is a large amount of improvisation, to be sure. Mostly, though, what makes this disc click is the ability of the three players to communicate with each other and combine to create something greater than themselves. In part because of the instruments these guys play, but mostly because of their musical ideas, the pieces here remind me a lot of "Rite of Spring" and other modern classical works. These boys aren't afraid to mix melody and dissonance in order to make a point. And it's that willingness to go out on an edge--even while keeping a hand on the wall--that serves the trio best. The sound is almost undeveloped. The drums rumble, the sax squeals and the violin wails. There isn't a lot of subtlety in the sound, though the playing itself is often achingly beautiful. Even though the trio takes on a number of jazz themes, the overarching ideal is more of a classical one. I'm not schooled enough to explain this difference properly, but it's one that I think I can hear. In the end, though, it doesn't matter precisely what the sound is as long as the music is good. And you know something? The music is great. - Jon Worley

(KZSU Zookeeper) Calm free improv with violin, sax, and drums. Focuses on long, lyrical lines -- a very melodic approach -- an overall slow effect with the feel of shamans trying to conjure up some otherworldly being. (2,3) The instruments all stay relatively quiet, careful not to drown out the others. - Craig Matsumoto

(Ampersand Etcetera 7/2005) Seven pieces for violin, clarinet and percussion (respectively) probably recorded live (there is some applause) by this trio on their second PE excursion (plus Khoury is a Bad Girl). This is the gentler side of improv - instruments generally played sympathetically to their original function, preference for the melodic and subtle, though not without a little disharmony or excitement, which all adds up to an enjoyable album. - Jeremy Keens

(Dream no. 6) Michael Khoury plays violin, Jason Shearer clarinet, and Benjamin Hall drums. Together they make something that sounds like a polite tea party going more than a little Alice in Wonderland around the edges. A chamber music formalism melts and merges with a fluid free jazz sensibility; to cast crazy shadows and shapes around the room. Most of this feels like some kind of soundtrack to a very strange and highly mysterious series of short films. - George Parsons

(Neo-Zine) This CD brings together violin, clarinet, and percussion in a semi-musical freeform jazzy spectacular that should excite the intellect and stimulate growth of creative genius and hard work calluses on the ear drums. Seriously, of all of the improvisational ensembles that I have listened to over the years, this is probably one of the most user-friendly and overall listenable from the entertainment standpoint. People might not fight you as hard on this one when you try to drag them kicking and screaming into a world beyond radio music. This is smart, without being intellectually smug and its friendly without being a slut. - CHC

(Dead Angel) The trio I sometimes like to think of as the unofficial Public Eyesore house band returns with an album disguised as a series of motives and a cryptic title. The trio, of course, remains: Michael Khoury (violin), Jason Shearer (clarinet), and Benjamin Hall (percussion). The seven pieces here, with titles like "Motive 8" and "Motive 4," are essentially tonal exercises in abstract expressionism with the violin and clarinet interacting freely (sometimes violently) over an unusual (and frequently unpredictable) bed of irregular percussion, creating lively and unexpected tones and patterns. The squeaking, rasping violin is often the backbone of a given piece, while the clarinet provides counterpoint in the form of frenzied bursts of notes and sometimes pure noise. Some of the album's most entertaining sounds come exploding from the clarinet, which gets quite a beating in Shearer's hands and mouth over the seven outings. Throughout it all, Hall's percussion is both assured and unfathomable, and about as predictable as the wind. No information is given on the circumstances behind the recordings, although given the presence of applause at the end of "Motive 8," it's safe to assume at least some of these are live performances. Another swell outing for the trio. - RKF

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