Album reviews

Kaja Draksler / Susana Santos Silva – ‘Grow’

Kaja Draksler / Susana Santos Silva – ‘Grow’

(Intakt CD 391/2022. Album review by Jon Carvell)

Recorded live at the 2021 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Grow is the second album from Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler.

Performed in a converted church, the feel is experimental and free, with the reverberant space of the building taking on a role as a third partner in the group. In the opener “Moonrise”, Draksler pings high notes into the ether like stars on a clear night, before her prepared piano bell patterns repeat and collapse in on themselves amid Santos Silva’s half-valve trills.

Although ostensibly split across four tracks, these are more like way points on an uninterrupted journey. The named pieces do not so much start and end, as evolve as logical consequences of what has come before, such as when actual bell sounds emerge during “Close”, having been presaged at the opening of the set.

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Draksler’s speeding pianola-style figures in the high register evoke the twentieth-century experimental automation of Conlon Nancarrow, and the two players are so closely aligned in their dialogue that it feels less like two separate improvisers and more as if every sound is generated from a single point of imagination.

Santos Silva achieves white noise effects by exhaling forcefully through her instrument on “Liquid Rock”, and we experience a kind of musical degradation, with any familiar moorings of tonality, melody or metre gradually stripped away. Having pared things back to this point, the sudden reintroduction of melodic figures and rhythmic patterns feels like water in the desert.

There are echoes of John Adams in Draksler’s piano figuration and Santos Silva channels the late, great Jon Hassell’s Fourth World in the exotic and mystical shading she gives to her lines. This is music that demands your attention. It can only be front and centre of your awareness, and every sound is freighted with meaning, despite being divorced from convention.

The combination of harmon-muted trumpet and EBow-ed piano strings in the final, title track creates a texture that has a purity and intensity unlike anything heard in the preceding 35 minutes. Out of this comes a series of clarion C#s, insistent and irrepressible. It feels like a moment of arrival and realisation; a moment of growth.

LINK: Grow on Bandcamp

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