“Provenance is a lovely, intricate and pleasurable place to be.” – FREQ
“Endlessly shapeshifting, this is a recording of such hyperactivity its recombinant energy never allows for respite—in a good way—the player’s ability to juggle a seemingly inexhaustive sonic phraseology holds the ear’s interest thanks to contours sharp enough to cut glass.” – Darren Bergstein, DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY, NYC
Martin Archer and John Jasnoch have a musical relationship which goes all the way back to the early 1980s when they were both a part of jazz-punk pell mellers Bass Tone Trap. Over the subsequent years they have played and recorded together occasionally, previously as ASK, and now as this no frills improvised music duo which allows both musicians to utilise the full range of their respective instrumentation. This new work was recorded in the same place at the same time, one day in July 2021. The conversation continues.
“Although I’m frequently referred to as an “improvising musician”, only a tiny handful out of the dozens of albums I’ve recorded since 1980 have actually been free improvisation. I’m delighted these improvisations are in the company of John, with whom I’ve played, then not played, and then played again during the same 40 year period. With the exception of one editing intervention, these pieces are heard exactly as we created them.” MA.
“The last time that Martin and I played in public (or anywhere for that matter) was in September 2019 in Manchester. There were plans for dates in 2020 but these were shelved for reasons we are all too aware of. We reconvened nearly 2 years later in July 2021 and created the music you hear here.” JJ.
Sopranino, saxello, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, flute, bass harmonica
Electric guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, oud, ukulele
Don’t download, buy the disc. Before you get to this gene of music you’ll be holding a cover package, in its own right a quality art artefact consisting of 125 photographs by Tony Kemplen. They are blocked and juxtaposed in rows without any lettering or explanation. This is indeed, Provenance. Now put on the music. Refracted, abstracted, self possessed duets; music that tips a targeted strike toward pioneers like Derek Bailey and John Russell yet gives off a sound that keeps on building a personal circumference owned entirely by Martin Archer and John Jasnoch. I hear Provenance as a whole, the use of track titles only there to indicate specifics. We’re all intrigued by labels. We live by labels don’t we? The opening sequence of Mynediad is all popping strings and (to my ears) alto. There’s glissandos pitching into a dense labyrinth of saxophone language. It immediately marvels technique, breath control and creative content. The lines tune-through into World Heartbreak/Nuh with acoustic strings drawing modal scales referencing raga. Senses are spoken to; this is non-verbal dialogue but I’m tempted to answer back. Like listening in on other people’s conversations and butting-in on stuff that’s too good to miss out on. The long discourse of Railroad Blues/To The Tiltyard is sax and lap steel guitar. A sentence that conjures up images of Ry Cooder and Americana interplay – at no point does Provenance go Into The Purple Valley. Somewhere, deep down in the bone marrow it’s there but so far down it’s become fused into Archer/Jasnoch’s radical stripping down of dialogue. It would be true to describe the end of this section as “sax riffing over inverted blues” but any thought of Tiltyard being spun out in a Tex/Mex bar room is absurd… making it all the more wonderful. As is the Slide Catch/Lawn Prism sequence that follows. Here Martin Archer’s flute technique is central. Unwavering held notes speaking a breath control of high order; more to the point, they balance an exquisite balm into the soundscape. We’re over half way through when the extended Provenance passage is introduced. Both musicians are chasing the muse-duet. John Jasnoch’s approach to ‘free improv’ electric guitar is a giant step further on to Derek Bailey, no easy step to achieve. In a pure sound sense these plugged-in strings are cast close to the ‘jazz’ tradition. He still snares a rare spare use of sustain and harmonics throughout the mix; it’s a tangled delight. By the time these two kinetic scientists reach the final seven minutes Jasnoch has switched to plucked banjo turning the old vaudeville on its head in the guise of a kora with metal strings. This leaves Martin Archer breathing an intimate rich headache inside the reed of Adolphe Sax. If you’re listening to improv, you can’t ASK (sic) for more than this? As the last note dies Archer asks Jasnoch, “Did that get to where you wanted it to go?” One word reply: “Exactly.” This is an invigorating session that won’t be on the shelf anytime soon. I’ve got a long road trip this week, Provenance will be soundtracking me. Some conversations don’t go away. This is one of them. – Steve Day, September 2021
Discus head honcho Archer’s a jack-of-all-trades, a contemporary renaissance man under whose feet not a single blade of grass grows. Whether stretching the parameters of music to make it truly progressive (in the trio Das Rad), organizing electronics into sound art as one-half of Inclusion Principle, stirring the galvanic environs of the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, or bending woodwinds to his own will across a score of solo and duo projects, Archer’s restless spirit catapults his limitless creative muse into all of this and more through a catalog of never less than fascinating sonic tableaux. Here, he goes full improv on this set of duels with quixotic string-thwacker Jasnoch, who’s no slouch in the gee-tar department himself. What ensues are both musicians’ wreaking general havoc across your high fidelity system as they engage in a series of unbridled interplays pitting horn against guitar in ways both startlingly unconventional and eminently embraceable. The digipak panels’ juxtapose tiles of stark magic realism against one another—birds on a wire, cones, flowers, fighter planes, skull masks, color-shapes, etc.—literal and literary references that are reflected in the pair’s enigmatic track titles and on-the-fly performances. Archer and Jasnoch’s “Provenance” comes through as mismatched weather systems colliding in various violent ways, cloudbanks of saxophones split open by Jasnoch’s irruptive lightning bursts and obtuse phrasing, as spiky, calculated, and free as Derek Bailey in his most untethered flights of fancy. The thirteen minutes of “Railroad Blues/To the Tiltyard” feature Archer’s acrylic yet astringent horn lines that puncture the air like shafts of dry ice, further strip-mined by Jasnoch as he warps the most skeletal of blues structures into a pretzel logic of his own elaborate making. Endlessly shapeshifting, this is a recording of such hyperactivity its recombinant energy never allows for respite—in a good way—the player’s ability to juggle a seemingly inexhaustive sonic phraseology holds the ear’s interest thanks to contours sharp enough to cut glass. – Darren Bergstein, DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY, NYC
By contrast, Archer’s collaboration with John Jasnoch is a conversation in improv that finds both players pushing the other into dizzying directions of volume and texture. Their musical relationship goes back four decades, and on the elastic guitar and delirious horns of the opening track, the sounds they produce are almost speech-like; it feels like a conversation left dormant for years and then taken up again with no noticeable lag. The guitar ebbs and surges, the plucking and throbbing harsh, and it seems like rural mania under a clear blue sky, the two instruments causing similar sensations as they dovetail and drift into sublime peace. The impression is of two players searching for a common end but using disparate methods is key on “World Heartbreak / Nuh”, where the bending strings of the guitar and the deep foam of the sax gives it a sultry succession. As the piece continues, the image of a child running endlessly in circles, waiting for the thrill of dizziness to envelop them, is just joyful as John searches the fretboard for answers to a never-ending list of questions. The variety of instruments played here is mind-blowing, each player utilising six or seven to maximise the whirling effect. There is a train motion that could also be a loose radio signal on “Railroad Blues”, but the Hawaiian-style pedal steel melts that idea of movement into wide-open and dusty vista in which the yearning sax tugs at the heartstrings. The mournful battleground of “Slide Catch”, with its mystical flute and an ancient plucking, gives a certain lyrical abstraction, the scampering of the gentle guitar giving way to the subtle whisper of the flute, their secrets passed on through the ages. The dancing duo in the long-form “Provenance” has a fistful of passion, but also an element of uncertainty. The jazzy yet abstract chords are really sweet, with lovely little harmonics that ring in the ears long after the piece has moved on, its intricate pattern weaving with pockets of space left to be filled with faint sounds, like esoteric information awaiting just the right listener. You always feel like that person when listening to this album, as if somehow Martin and John have tapped into some innate language which binds you and draws you into their little world, if only for the duration of the album. Provenance is a lovely, intricate and pleasurable place to be and all the more special for its scarcity. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ http://freq.org.uk/
On Provenance (DISCUS 122CD), label boss Martin Archer teams up with an old friend John Jasnoch, and together the duo have effectively made a record in the mould of Derek Bailey & Evan Parker duos, a set of free improvisations for guitar and saxophone. Of course Archer plays a range of saxophones, and also the flute (and the bass harmonica), and Jasnoch switches from guitar to 12 string, lap steel, mandolin, banjo and other strings, but the main thrust is the musical conversation that’s going down – notably recorded at a single session on one day in 2021. I especially enjoyed the long title track with its (I think) amplified electric guitar. Jasnoch has improved a lot since I last heard him on Ghost Lily Cascade (1995) and reined himself in a bit, though he shies away from noise-based effects and it’s all about dexterity and fingering. Archer himself is keen to point out that he rarely does “pure” improvisation on his records, which are mostly part-composed or scored, so this is something of an exception. The musical fluidity and abundance, qualities which typify an Archer project, are much in evidence on these very maximal performances; they can’t stop talking and filling spaces, and remain untouched by the schools of “reduced playing”, Wandleweiser, or other minimalist forces which have made their presence felt in free playing over the last 20 years. – Ed Pinsent, SOUND PROJECTOR
JOHN JASNOCH, Jg. 1953, war wie MARTIN ARCHER ein Bass Tone Trap-per und sie blieben einander seit 1982 verbunden in The Bone Orchestra und in Ask, und wenn nicht mit Archer, dann frönte er mit Charlie Collins dem Sheffield-Sound, in The Jonathan S. Podmore Method oder The Navigators. Auf Provenance(Discus 122) improvisiert er im Juli 2021 mit Archers Gebläse an Alto-, Tenor- & Baritonsax, Sopranino, Saxello, Quietsch-, Zirp- und Flötflöte und zupft, scharrt, pickt dabei neben E-, 12-string- & Lap-Steel-Guitar noch Mandoline, Banjo, Oud etc. Plinkplonk made in Sheffield? Logo. Schließlich sind Derek Bailey und Tony Oxley dort geboren und haben mit Gavin Bryars, der dort Philosophie studierte, als Joseph Holbrooke so um 1965 rum das freie Gekrabbel und Gerappel ausgebrütet. Provenance – Herkunft – meint also: Von hier, direkt von der Quelle, mit genuinem Zugriff (‘Mynediad’) als, wenn nicht Manier, so doch als Spirit so alt wie der ‘Rudstone Monolith’ und ungebrochen übers Mittelalter – ‘To the Tiltyard’ (Turnierplatz) – in die jüngere Vergangenheit bewahrt – ‘Railroad Blues’. Jasnoch – Archer spielen wie Bailey – Evan Parker, wie G. F. Fitzgerald – Lol Coxhill mit eigenem Stil und Gusto in jenem Frei- und Eigensinn, in dem paradiesisch- ‘primitiv’ und Hohe Schule ein und dasselbe sind. Die Insel ist dafür eine gute Brutstätte gewesen, das Copyright liegt jedoch beim Homo ludens. Mein Lieblingsduett hier in diesem drahtharfig beprickelten, beklampften, betwangten Fächer von schnaubendem Bariton bis kirrendem Soprano kommt zuletzt, wenn Archer in Replik auf ‘I Know There’s A Question’ als Wechselspiel von versponnenem Tenorsax und spröder Mandoline ‘Groundhog’s Answer’ mit Bassharmonika murrt und Jasnoch Ukulele klimpert. Das Ganze ist visuell eingebettet in – von ein paar modernistisch-brutalistischen Hausecken und einer Düsenjägerstaffel abgesehen – kunterbunten Blüten- und Formenreichtum. Kurz: Martin Archers Scheibenwelt ist einfach göttlich. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY
Provenance is a recording of an improvised performance they did in the same place at the same time on 1 day in July 2021. The result is an experimental and rather complex improvised jazz recording where Martin plays sopranino, saxello, alto, tenor & baritone sax, flute and bass harmonica, and John plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, oud and the ukulele. If you’re already familiar with Martin’s past efforts, then you will love this album as well. Both musicians do not hold back to try out new stuff and despite its divided into 6 long songs, it feels like one long interesting adventure to explore. – Gabor Kleinbloesem, STRUTTER’ZINE.
The musical collaboration between Archer and Jasnoch has a long history and goes back to the early 80s when both participated in Bass Tone Trap, producing jazz-punk like music. Jasnoch started with playing bluegrass and country but turned to improvisation near the end of the 70s and became a member of Sheffield Free Music Group. After their Bass Tone Trap experience, Archer and Jasnoch played together as a duo from time to time, or they met in other collaborations. After their last concert in 2019, they decided for doing more shows in 2020. Then the virus came, and instead, they chose a studio recording halfway this year. Both play a wide range of instruments on this recording: Martin Archer (sopranino, saxello, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, flute, bass harmonica) and John Jasnoch (electric guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, oud, ukulele). Archer is known for the many different contexts of his musical activity. Practising many different styles and approaches: progressive, jazz, ambient-induced music, etc. Not often do we meet him in a free improvisation project moving away from jazz and other idioms. This is the case with this duo work of often non-idiomatic improvisation. Because of the variety of instruments, their dialogues evoke very different atmospheres and moods. Many colours and many techniques are used to create distinguished improvisations. Always on a high communicative level, they invite us into many sides of their very personal and rich musical partnership. – Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY http://www.vitalweekly.net/1312.html
Archer and Jasnoch have been jamming together for 40 years on and off, so it’s no surprise to find these half-dozen improvised duets suffused with light-hearted familiarity. Archer blows a selection of reed instruments, including the lesser used sopranino, saxello and bass harmonica, while Jasnoch plays various members of the guitar family including mandolin, banjo and oud. At least half the fun comes from the unexpected combinations. On the longest track “Railroad Blues / To The Tiltyard” dreamy lap steel guitar conjures conjures a Spongebob Hawaiian fantasy while Archer’s sax flips from R&B chug to canine wheeze and drooping swanee whistle, ending up with the guitar locked in a Henry Flynt hillbilly echo judder. It’s quick witted, playful fun. – Daniel Spicer, THE WIRE
Distinct because its six extended tracks take longer to evolve; and that Archer and Jasnoch play six times as many instruments each than any of the other performers, (this review is alongside some other duo CDs) the origins of Provenance still fit with the balanced evolution of dual musical concepts. While initially the string player’s strategy is speedier and more staccato and the reedist’s output more moderato but energized, the two manage to achieve narrative stability despite the multitude of pitches and accents available from Archer’s six horns and Jasnoch’s seven string instruments. The two even surprise with an almost straight-ahead theme, as on the title tune where tongue arabesques and clinking string variations move back-and-forth between disassociated tones to affiliated playing that touches on Bop heads. On the other hand high-pitched reed bites, guttural flute blowing and honking tough tenor or basement baritone sax growls coupled with continuous rhythm guitar strumming, bent string oud explorations and banjo twangs on other tracks proclaim that this isn’t a standard Jazz session. Part of the evidence for this is not as much the Free Jazz-like squeaks and pinches that Archer shows on tunes like “World Heartbreak/Nuh” and “Railroad Blues/To The Tiltyard”. Instead, it’s that Jasnoch’s response to these Energy Music suggestion or unexpected slide-whistle-like shrills are unexpected: bottleneck guitar slashes, Hawaiian guitar-like vibrations or steel-guitar echoes, reminiscent of a folk music past. Attaining a mixture of obtuse and open-ended cooperation throughout the session, the two confirm their individuality as well links to the other duos. – Ken Waxman, JAZZ WORD http://www.jazzword.com/
We recently left British saxophonist Martin Archer struggling with double bassist and cellist Michael Bardon and percussionist Walt Shaw in See You Soon Or See You Sometime, a very generous disc in which Archer seemed to have found his ideal trio. In Provenance, we find him in a duet alongside friend guitarist John Jasnoch. The six pieces of the album are total improvisations, captured in one take in the studio of the Discus label. They make us hear a beautiful complicity between the two musicians (the result of a companionship that has lasted for more than 40 years and of which Provenance constitutes the only discographic testimony), each bouncing in turn on the proposals of the other. This modus operandi specific to dual encounters might tire the ear in the long run, in particular due to a lack of density and depth of field. It is not so, as the diversity of the instruments used by the two friends (one blows in everything that is mouthed; the other scratches all kinds of guitars and derivatives) brings contrasts and colors to their dialogue. (Translated from French) – Citizen Jazz – https://www.citizenjazz.com/
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