Baldi/Gerycz Duo - After Commodore Perry Service Plaza Music Album Reviews

Baldi/Gerycz Duo - After Commodore Perry Service Plaza Music Album Reviews
The second album of improvisational jazz from Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi and Jayson Gerycz tones down the bluster, stretching out in slow-moving pieces that rely heavily on space.

No one files Cloud Nothings under jazz. Their moments of spontaneity are rare, and even their occasional jams are contained within tightly structured, reliably hooky rock songs. Though it’s not immediately apparent from their best-known work, both Cloud Nothings guitarist and singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz have experience with the avant garde. Gerycz has been consistently active in noise circles with several abstract side projects; Baldi came to punk as an avid free jazz listener, searching for a parallel to the extremes he first heard in the holy cacophony of Pharoah Sanders. As Baldi/Gerycz Duo, the longtime collaborators tap directly into their more esoteric roots, abandoning structure with improvised duets consisting of just saxophone and percussion.
After Commodore Perry Service Plaza is the second album of Baldi/Gerycz Duo’s live room improvisations, released just six months after their first, Blessed Repair. The debut took cues from high-energy ’60s and ’70s free jazz, at times sounding like a punk approximation of Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe’s uncontainable 1973 classic Duo Exchange. After Commodore Perry Service Plaza tones down the bluster considerably, stretching out in slow-moving pieces that rely heavily on space.

The 18-minute suite “Hermit Thrush/Vat of Oil” cycles through lulls, allowing long, careful tones from Baldi’s alto sax and almost imperceptible cymbal splashes to break into short-lived swells of energy that recede before gaining momentum. “Frog Congress at Dawn” pares back to muted toms, brushed bells, and auxiliary percussion instruments that sound more rustled than played, chattering back and forth with intermittent sax figures or breathy rasps. Hovering in a soft emptiness, the duo respond to each other’s restrained gestures with contemplative murmurs. When they reach a point where the song could predictably build or resolve, they instead opt to keep pushing forward. The album’s first half hour is a sprawl of soft-spoken tangents that unfold like a glassy-eyed conversation hours into an overnight drive.

The third and final track, “The Holy Retrievers (In Transit),” shatters the calm with high-speed drum rolls that tumble in tandem with clusters of overblown notes. The playing is volatile, but as focused as the more subdued stretches. Even at high velocity, the pair maintain enough control to keep the frenzied blur from devolving into a mindless freakout.

Baldi and Gerycz’s jazz improv may look unrecognizable beside their comparatively accessible indie rock, but both extend from the same DIY impulse. Neither player has any traditional jazz training beyond high school band, and their raw, self-taught style depends more on intuition and communication than technical mastery. The most amorphous corridors of After Commodore Perry Service Plaza move erratically, lingering on certain passages until they fray and crumble. It’s a groggy, confused take on the spiritual upheaval of free jazz, imbued with the sullen atmosphere of a sparsely attended noise gig. If their improvisatory dialogue sometimes feels seasick, Baldi and Gerycz keep it afloat through attentive listening. Their years of playing together have created an attunement that bonds their minimal freeform, which reaches its sharpest clarity in expanses so slight they seem to be on the verge of dissolution.
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Baldi/Gerycz Duo - After Commodore Perry Service Plaza Music Album Reviews Baldi/Gerycz Duo - After Commodore Perry Service Plaza Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 Rating: 5

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