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The Space Between with Barre Phillips
The Wire review
Andy Hamilton

The Space Between is Philip Gelb (shakuhachi) Pauline Oliveros (accordion) and Dana Reason (piano). Barre Phillips might be a guest, but the veteran bassist is a pivotal presence. The label’s website refers to this date as ‘free Improv’, which shows what a broad approach to making music the term encompasses. This isn’t free Improv of the European kind that developed out of jazz - though Phillips comes from that background. In this instance, it arises more from contemporary composition, and especially minimalism, as Pauline Oliveros’ presence implies. This isn’t the first time on disc that The Space Between have featured an additional improvisor from the jazz tradition: saxophonist Jon Raskin from the ROVA Quartet appeared on between/waves, released under Philip Gelb’s name on Sparkling Beatnik in 1999. If anything, the results here are even more memorable. It’s clear from the lively opening track, "King Kong Passes Through The Gates Of Shaolin Temple And Contemplates Life", that theirs isn’t going to be an entirely minimal, sparsely textured approach. The brief "Do We Deserve Dubya?" understandably raises little enthusiasm for the Texas oilman, but on the long "Incandescent Gesture" and elsewhere, Barre Phillips’s pizzicato playing is implicated in the surges of energy. One of the joys of the album is found in the extraordinary collisions of timbre and tuning. On accordion, Oliveros’s own systems of Just Intonation clash with Dana Reason’s piano in European tuning, while Gelb’s fluttering Japanese flute is hard to keep in tune. Yet the resulting tonal scrunches are delightful, and Barre Phillips’s arco work merges imperceptably into Oliveros’s accordion. The recording quality is superb, though I had to double take when I heard the crickets in the background - not a common sound in the Pennines any time of year.

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