BIANCO BRACKENBURY Rising Up (Discus 112CD; UK) Talk about your dynamic duos. Drummer/bassist Tony Bianco and violinist/violaist Faith Brackenbury have pooled their talents to come up with one of the best such meetings in recent memory. Recorded in the spring of 2021, these three long pieces go a long way to demonstrating the pair’s collective psyche as they stormed the studio. Bianco’s pedigree is the sturdy backbone that anchors this recording: he’s lent his particular genius to recordings with such sterling colleagues as Paul Dunmall, Elton Dean, and Evan Parker, but his tenure in fusion outfit Machine Mass (alongside Dave Liebman) is what really gives this disc heft. Though relatively new on the scene, Brackenbury’s classically trained and talented as all get-out; it’s obvious there’s a telepathic sensibility these two share, evidenced by the powerful synergy fomented during this collaboration. Point of fact: they didn’t nick their disc Rising Up for just beer ’n’ skittles. During the thirty-one minute trajectory of the title track, the duo presage something of an acoustic mini-Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bianco’s shapeshifting percussive maelstrom (atop overdubbed bass) echoing Billy Cobham’s fire and brimstone, as Brackenbury whips up strokes of tornadic muscle in the finest Jerry Goodman tradition. The level of energy maintained across this expansive landscape is nothing short of breathtaking; Bianco manages to not only rock his kit into submission, he provides the essential blueprint from which Brackenbury spills wild, far-flung tonalities across cartographic oceans. Afterwards, “Gypsy Softbread” walks tentatively across the now-scorched earth, Brackenbury’s viola peeking its head out amongst Bianco’s probing cymbals, scattershot shakers, and weary snares, all to ponder how to navigate the vast emptyness left in their wake. Serenity now? Not exactly. The closing fifteen minutes of “Assassin” hardly lets its guard down. Bianco first teases us with some gently arousing surface noise, but his drumstrikes inevitably pick up a mighty head of steam, the better for Brackenbury to alternately sustain then attack; as she responds to her partner’s percussive downpour, her sharply-etched yet remarkably fluid linearity fairly sets the dance alight. Apparently, it only really does take two to tango. - Darren Bergstein, DMG


Discus Music: Discus112CD 

Tony Bianco: drums, bass; Faith Brackenbury: violin, viola
Recorded by March / April 2021 by Tony Bianco at Garden Cottage

Ex-pat New Yorker, Bianco arrived in Europe in the early ‘90s and immediately lit a fuse under the free jazz scene as an in-demand drummer of masterful timing with an inventive way around his drum kit.  On this album, his sparkling drumming is well to the fore, but so is his bubbling, frenetic bass playing.  He needs to be on top form because Brackenbury, on violin and viola, provides a challenging and refreshing freedom to the jazz violin.  On this set, constraints of melody and structure are lifted and there is a riotous energy and enthusiasm in the playing of both members.  Having played classical violin, then played folk professionally, Brackenbury has also developed her own voice in jazz and this effortlessly introduces lyrical hooks and phrases that she will revisit and twist in the playing while also pushing boundaries in the music’s structure.  As her lines swoop and soar, Bianco’s bass and drums provides a motive force to the music that is both cajoling and responding to the playing, inventing new lines and suggesting new directions.  

At times, Brackenbury’s playing was reminiscent of Ornette Coleman in its striving to draw a simple lyricism into an unstructured free-wheeling form. But where Coleman was working ab initio from violin to the sound, Brackenbury is having to unlearn and let go of imperatives of tone from classical playing or structure from folk music to find a place where each note is not predicated on some learned necessity but becomes a thing in its own space and of its own right.

Having said this about the freedom of the playing, the closing piece (on the download only version of the album) is a 16 minute version of ‘Wichita Lineman’, which begins with the tune played cleanly, clearly and plaintively.  A repeated piano line and shuffling drum pattern provide the backing for a series of extemporisations on the theme which drift (but not too far) from melody, chord structure and tempo.  In a way, this is more startling and unnerving than the freer pieces here; if only because it reveals an adherence to the written line that the duo have fought against in the other pieces, and makes clear how hard that fight can be (and how triumphantly they win it).

Reviewed by Chris Baber