Last night in Austin, the group Conference Call started their 2010 Spring US tour in support of the recently-released two CD set What About...? on Not Two Records. The group is a quartet, consisting of Berlin-based reedman Gebhard Ullmann, Memphis pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, and New Yorkers Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums. Anthony Braxton (who had Fonda in his groups for many years) would probably call all four of these players "restructural masters," because they draw from traditions in both the mainstream and outside to create a music that's unique and wholly their own. Highly rhythmic, harmonically extraordinarily varied with knotty thematic material and brilliant collective communication, Conference Call represent something beautiful in improvised music today. Sure, there are "heavier" outfits and displays of rawness and virtuosity that rival Conference Call, but after more than a decade together it's clear that they're finding their own space and navigating it with honesty and purity. I don't think one can ask for much more than that.
Tour dates can be found here.