Jugalbandi - "1999" (Great Artiste 89 Records 2003, GAJG004)
Jugalbandi - "1999: Deep Cuts" (Great Artiste 89 Records 2003, GAJG005)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
What is the most basic formation for a rock band? I'm sure nearly everyone will respond guitar, bass & drums. So what if you have a rock duo of only guitar and drums? Is a critical rhythmic bottom end missing? Well in many cases I'm sure there is. But Greg Segal (guitar) and Hyam Sosnow (drums) manage to crank out thoughtful and often ass kicking rock music without the need for a bass. Segal and Sosnow had first played together in the late 80's in Cold Sky (see review this issue) and when they got together for these sessions they had not played together in six years.
Though separate discs, 1999 and Deep Cuts are from the same sessions recorded in May of 1999 at a rehearsal studio and live performance in Portland, Oregon. I discussed Jugalbandi's commitment to improvisation in AI #18 (including interview with Greg Segal) so I'll just mention that it's called the Improvisation Level Classification System, which indicates the amount or type of improvisation in a given piece of music. And though an improvisational duo, part of the intention of these sessions was to get "definitive" versions of songs they had been working on for some years. Hence, there are a number of tracks which are presented in more than one version across the two discs.
Because some songs are repeated I decided to listen to multiple occurrences of a track one after the other. Jugalbandi shine on lengthy tracks and the version of "Uncle Sun" that opens 1999 begins with Segal cranking out freeform rockin guitar against Sosnow's steady pounding drumming. Sosnow's style is powerful, firm, and controlled, which I think to a large extent explains the lack of a need for bass. Segal covers a lot of territory in the first several minutes of this 21 minute jam, rocking out and experimenting with different sounds and styles. The version on Deep Cuts is a few minutes shorter and, to my ears, might as well be a completely different track. And like the other version the two musicians stretch out into the rock cosmos, providing lots for prog rock, hard rock, and acid rock fans to enjoy. I think, however, that I enjoyed the version on Deep Cuts more as it gets much further into ripping acid space territory, while also including sparse, quiet, and very cool intricately rockin bits. "Under The Bridge" is the other epic length track that features two versions, one a studio recording and the other from a live performance. The studio cut really demonstrates what an expressive and varied guitarist Segal is, and the song comes across as melodic and even mellow, even though Segal is bowling us over with his chops and Sosnow is laying down steady rockin drum patterns. Among the multiple version tracks, this is the one where the two most closely resemble each other, but it's worthwhile to have the studio vs. live setting as the duo stretch out in different directions on each performance, with the live version being the more spirited of the two.
There are three versions of "MIRV Gryphon", ranging from 8 to over 14 minutes. I dig the ambient jazz beginning of the version on 1999, which quickly transitions to a heavier jamming rock tune with some excellent dirty Bluesy stylings from Segal, as well as some totally smokin and very spacey solos. The third version, though much shorter than the other two, is a concise and really killer piece of heavy free jamming and prog rocking art. One of my favorites on either of the two discs. "Elmer Season" (#1 & #2) features some very nice ambient and totally spaced guitar. And having just reviewed the Cold Sky live set this issue it was interesting hearing the Jugalbandi version of "Clear Day" recorded ten years later. The ROCK has by no means been dropped from the song.
And the rest of the tracks.... just loads and loads of great rock music tailor made for those who like to climb aboard extended musical journeys with creative, proficient musicians. These guys cover a wide swath of ground. The music is very freeform, but by no means chaotic. Sosnow's drumming provides a solid base that allows Segal to explore to his hearts content, while keeping the music on a linear path. The nice thing about Jugalbandi, where the participants are so clearly comfortable with one another, is it's easy to tune into the guitar and drum parts separately, distinguishing each contribution while simultaneously hearing how it all comes together. If you crave the thoughtful intelligence of progressive rock that doesn't forsake the raw abandon of jamming heavy rock, then there's plenty here for you to enjoy.
For more information you can visit the Jugalbandi web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Great Artiste 89 Records; PO Box 55843; Sherman Oaks, CA 91413-0843.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz