Tempted to Smile
Fred Frith, guitar, etc - left channel Joelle Leandre, contrabass center Jonathan Segel, violin, guitar - right channel Recorded in November 2002. Mixed in March 2003 at Guerilla Recording. Mastered in March 2003 at the Headless Buddha. All by Myles Boisen. What the Critics are Saying: The string trio is one of the most versatile vehicles for Free Improvisation, largely due to the broad variety of sounds and flexibility of the instruments. It is also one of the few groupings that remain partially untapped. Sitting somewhat uncomfortably on the edges of the genre, experienced pros Fred Frith and Joelle Leandre are joined by Jonathan Segel for an inventive, exploratory, and often disturbing set of improvisations that demand close attention from the listener because of both the level of detail and abstraction. Frith and Leandre have often flirted with cross-genres, the former coming primarily from an avant-rock perspective, while the bassist is rightly identified more with Avant-Garde Jazz and modern classical composition. They meet on common ground here, with no direct hints at anything in their pasts and Segal (also coming from a mostly rock perspective) has no difficulty fitting in. Steve Loewy, All Music Guide Of all the musicians with a non-jazz background who have embraced improv over the past few years, British-born, California-based guitarist/composer Fred Frith seems to have brought the most to the table by using freer impulses to amplify his own versatility. ... Leandre, whose talents as a contemporary composition interpreter were well established in the so-called serious music world before she turned to improv has followed a similar path to Frith's, playing with everyone from American trombonist George Lewis to Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro. Parenthetically, you wonder if during her apprentice years at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris, Leandre ever imagined that one day she would share a recording date with two rock-identified guitarists; Frith, and Segel, whose history includes Camper Van Beethoven and Sparklehorse. ... Deep in the heart of improv, the timbres, tones and pitches of [Tempted to Smile] aren't easily attached to sound sources. Considering Frith is described as playing 'etc.' as well as guitar, there's the suspicion that samples make an appearance. On the 'Glass of Absinthe' for instance, it appears that both Frith and Segel are on guitars, with the results including extended slackening of the strings in a Hawaiian manner coupled with bottleneck suggestions from the other gitbox, making the ethnic connections stronger. Here and elsewhere there are crashes and tugs on the six-strings as well as thumps from the four strings on the bull fiddle. 'The Palace at 4:00 am' highlights string-induced mosquito-like buzzing and flailing, chords from the guitar, splayed, Middle Eastern tonal glissandos from the fiddle, and a solid continuum from the bass. Between the pitch sliding from all instruments, Frith assembles a Sandy Bull-like chromatic guitar fantasia. ... Composition or improvisation - take your pick, Frith et al are able to do both with convincing precision. Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly ....The trio pronounces a rather organic sound. But one of the main attributes of this set features the musicians' explorative ways and means of extracting sounds from their acoustic instruments. It's sort of like capturing or perhaps fabricating more voices or tonalities out of their instruments, where they transmit divergent contrasts via a multileveled approach. ... It's a mission of discovery and expansion. Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review.