Jugalbandi - "Classic"
(Great Artiste 89 Records 2007, GAJG010)
From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)
The latest from Jugalbandi is a collection of improvisations from April 1993 when Greg Segal (guitar) and Hyam Sosnow (drums) first formed the band. Those unfamiliar with Jugalbandi should know that they are an all improvisational guitar and drums duo. Segal and Sosnow are serious about improvisation to the point where each piece is subject to a rating in the Jugalbandi Improvisation Level (IL) Classification System. The ratings range from IL1, which is completely improvised, to IL6, which is completely composed. Actually, I'm surprised to see a IL 6 listed on this CD, as they've typically just gone up to IL5 (still some improvisation).
"Baghdaddy-O" opens the set and is a short 4 minute IL5 rocker. In Jugalbandi land this is considered a "song". Dig that ripping guitar. "Uncle Sun" is next, and as Hyam says on the web site notes, it's pure IL1. A full 30 minutes of improvisation. "Uncle Sun" will be known to Jugalbandi fans, but this version is particularly interesting because, as Greg points out, it's the first IL1 the duo did together. It starts off with playful guitar strumming, that soon transitions to soaring efx'd spacey licks, and then to some fancy fretwork. Greg is really exploring and Hyam is creating the foundation for him to do so. Greg shifts around to different sounds and styles for the first 10 minutes, at which point Hyam starts to up the rhythmic ante, and Greg takes that as his inspiriation to start rocking out. This is where the power of Jugalbandi is really showcased. NO bass! And they DON'T need one! Hyam is on fire and Greg continues his exploring, but now rocking out aggressively, and even getting nicely acidic. But nothing stays the same for long and soon the duo step back for another thematic shift. I really enjoyed some of the ambient segments where Greg's guitar seems to actually sing, and sounds all the better backed by Hyam's quietly jazzy drumming. Lots of variety here. Improvisation is such a risky thing but these two have the chemistry it takes to make it work.
"Atomic Research in the Quiet Bunker" is a 14 minute IL4, which means near fully improvised but based on a known structure/riff. It starts off with an uplifting jazzy feel, with the guitar morphing through some cool bluesy sections, spacey ambience, acidic ambience, fuzzed rock, boogie woogie, raunchy jam rock, psych rock, fiery soloing, and all the while Hyam is grooving along in jazz mode. If this sounds too completely all over the place to have any sense of cohesion… trust me, it's pretty much seamless. "Darkland Express" is another relatively short track, an IL5 that originally appeared on Greg's solo album of the same name. And reading the web site notes I see now why IL6 appears in the classification list, and I chuckled reading Greg saying that "this really is perilously close to an IL6". But regardless of any classification, this sucker ROCKS! And even better exemplifies how Jugalbandi succeeds as a duo (NO bass!).
Finally, we've got the 20 minute "Under the Jam", another IL4. The track starts off in country rock mode. Well… Jugalbandi's idea of country. It's still rocking, and bluesy, and weird, and continually shifting in one way or another. And after several minutes Greg and Hyam crank their engines and start to duel with one another. They're reall rocking and the guitar work is stunning. This is an example where not only do the duo succeed without a bass, but a bass would only get in the way. Absolutely mind-blowing rip it up ROCK. Guitar an drums blowing the roof off the place.
Hearing these first ever Jugalbandi sessions is a treat for those of us who have heard many hours of Segal-Sosnow jams. If you've never heard them before and have a taste for improvised Rock music then check these guys out. They're not only proficient on their instruments but have a seemingly limitless storage of creative juices to keep things always interesting and exciting.
For more information you can visit the Jugalbandi web site at: http://www.jugalbandi-music.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz