Reviews and Quotes for Convergence I
Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó /
Carl Clements — Convergence I
(Greydisc GDR3556, 2020, CD / DL)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-07-04
Kastning has around three dozen albums to his credit now in various configurations, many of those are duos with Hungarian guitarist Sándor Szabó, like the Ethereal series from 2018 and 2019; some are duos with flutist and saxophonist Carl Clements, the most recent being Even This Late It Happens from 2017. There have been trio albums before, with Hungarian percussionist Balazs Major, but this is the first trio release featuring Szabó and Clements, the latter of whom plays flute, alto flute, and bansuri flute, while Szabó plays 16-string classical guitar and 16-string Contraguitar, and Kastning playing his 36-string double-neck Contraguitar, 30-string contra-alto guitar, 15-string extended classical guitar, and 12-string soprano guitar. As with most of the previous albums, this is a very gentle and acoustic-driven set of ten tracks, with the two guitars working together and complementing the flutes, all together creating a beautiful and immersive sound, though each cut is very different from all the others, evoking different emotions and feelings as the piece moves forward. Like most of the material that Kastning and company record, there is a sense of wandering to every piece, dreamy and drifty pieces that evolve over their duration. How much of the material is scored and how much is improvised I can’t tell you, and they probably won’t either, but one thing is for certain – Szabó and Clements have played with Kastning enough times that they know where he’s about to go next with his arsenal of exotic instruments, although as a trio with two members that hadn’t played with one another before, there were no doubt some challenges, but one doesn’t hear them in there ten pieces. The liner notes say that these recordings were made while Szabó was on a two week trip to the states in the fall of 2015, and during that time there were some live performances scheduled and several other albums of material recorded by Kastning and Szabó, but Convergence I with Clements joining them was recorded live, all in a single day – October 29. An amazing collaboration, any way you look at it.
- Exposé Magazine (US)
Kevin Kastning, Carl Clements, &
Sándor Szabó: Convergence I
Prior to the recording of Convergence I, Kevin Kastning had played with fellow guitarist Sándor Szabó for about a decade and with flutist Carl Clements for three yet had never recorded with both in a trio context. The excitement the three shared in recording together for the first time is palpable on the release's ten tracks, all of them laid down on October 29th, 2015 (in fact, the trio recorded enough material for two albums). There's ample sensory pleasure to be derived from the sound their instruments generate in combination but as rewarding is how inspired the performances are.
Kastning is, of course, the innovator known for his multi-string guitar creations, on this release the 36-string Double Contraguitar, 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, 15-string Extended Classical guitar, and 12-string Soprano guitar. Complementing his fretwork are Szabó's 16-string Classical guitar and 16-string Contraguitar; completing the sound palette, Clements plays flute, alto flute, and Bansuri (North Indian reed) flutes. The pastoral blend in the opening “Splintered Gaze Remaining” might evoke for some images of hobbits traipsing through the Shire, but the latticework generated by the guitars and flute is transfixing, regardless of the associations the listener brings to it. The foundation laid by Kastning and Szabó in their earlier sessions is immediately evident in the ease with which the two lock into dense cross-patterns, Clements' flute a compelling addition to the textural mass created by the guitarists.
The pieces are improvisations but never feel directionless when the three are so wholly engaged. Some settings are taken at a faster clip (e.g., “Waking Ice Within”) whereas others are slower methodical explorations of a slightly more contemplative bent. There's much satisfaction to be obtained from following the real-time communication between the three instrumentalists and witnessing how each spontaneously responds to what's happening in the moment. No one player is featured more prominently than another, though Clements' flutes naturally stand out distinctly from the guitars. Solo sequences also occur, but for the most part the pieces document trio interplay where each voice is equally important.
As described by Szabó, the original plan for the project aimed at “a spontaneous inner fusion between Oriental and western musics,” and certainly the evidence suggests said goal was achieved. Aiding that realization is the fact that the North Indian Bansuri flute allows Clements to play pitches between the chromatic notes and thus help nudge the music outside the tonal boundaries associated with the European classical tradition. His playing in “Pass to the Dark Waters,” for instance, assumes a vocal-like quality in the way it moves melismatically between pitches, his searching exploration complemented by the meditative expressions of his partners. Tracks such as “A Far, A Way,” “Shadows Starlit Creep,” and “Tides Resisting” derive some of their crepuscular mystery from his choice of alto flute.
As mentioned, two albums' worth of material was recorded at the 2015 session, which suggests that the pieces featuring Clements playing tenor and soprano sax will likely appear on Convergence II at some future date. Separating the two sets into flute- and saxophone-oriented recordings would appear to have been a smart move, given the cohesiveness of the performances on the hour-long first volume.
Textura Magazine (CANADA)
Kevin Kastning Carl Clements Sándor Szabó Convergence I
Back in the late 60s I used to go to coffee houses and listen to music performed live or poets reciting their work. Kevin Kastning, Carl Clements, and Sándor Sazbó’s new album Convergence I is like that experience. Their mix is a combination of avant-garde, jazz, and contemporary elements that are woven tightly together. The results are an aural tapestry that delights the ear. Each song is like an experience all its own, but it’s a comfortable one. It generates its own atmosphere and you want to breathe deeply. Kevin Kastning is the master of the 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, an incredible instrument that looks like a pair of wings. Clements plays various flutes, bansuri and others, and Szabó plays a 16-string classical guitar. Nothing ordinary here. Convergence I is where concepts, timing, and tunings artfully merge to create an album of surprising vividness and complexity. Especially, the complexity angle. No minimalism here. Not only do the artists put a great deal of thought into the music, but it falls upon the listener to do so as well. You’re going to like the challenge.
The track titles are anything but plain. In fact they are quite cryptic. It adds to that provocative aura of the work. Take for instance the first cut, Splintered Gaze Remaining. If one owned a mirror that reflected only sound, then this is what it would sound like, only shattered. The flute seems to be following the broken edges, this way, that way. Everywhere. Surprisingly, however, the pieces still fit. They still touch an adjoining section giving the music a substance that is reflective as well as solid.
A Far, A Way is a labyrinthian tone poem. Flute and guitar seem to call and answer each other with dark, somber qualities. Clements’ playing seems covert, behind the curtain, whereas the guitar (s) appear to be in the forefront on cat like feet. You can still hear a few steps up until the very last moment.
Like the beginning line of some modern day Haiku, the tune Subtle Pages and Fold is enigmatic and much understated. A series of bass notes carves the path for the flute which follows and in this case, is quite restrained. Perhaps it is the Origami of sound that is shaped and pressed, pleated and smoothed. And then it emerges as wondrous art.
Water knows that it can follow the path of least resistance. In the tune Tides Resisting there is something definably liquid about this somewhat improvisational piece. It is as if the notes permeate the mind. They flow. They find every low spot, every nook and cranny, and fill those gaps. No ebb and flow here, just flow until one is full. Or perhaps a better word would be satiated.
Waking Ice Within is an ambitious jazz piece that is highly energetic and inspiring like an electrical charge. This is a pulse pounding soundscape with lots of sharp edges and divergent pathways. There is a harp like segment that is similar to looking through frosted glass. You can see a lot, but it is distorted and your mind can only grasp shapes. The music suggest caution on several levels.
Imagine yourself in a forest. A series of bell like tones resonates through a shroud of mist and fog as the tune Pines and Ghosts evolves. The theme is as darkly mysterious as one would expect, the atmosphere cold and drizzly. Your mind plays tricks on you as each tree is a vertical vestige of some unknown shape. Guitar and flute are separate entities in this one, only occasionally pairing. As I mentioned before, this music is complex.
Clear, cascading notes opens the final tune Again to Red. With a shrewd tapping technique, one guitar goes up the scale, the other dances around it. The flute, almost sounding like a heralding trumpet, joins in. The song is moody, serious, and, ironically, blue. Red for stop? Red for blood? In spirituality red symbolizes power, energy, and strength. Seeing red is completely different. There is a story here. You will just have to listen to the music and create your own story.
I’ll have to admit, this music does its job. Kastning and company’s music concepts are refreshing. Their anti-modal style gives you pause and forces you to ponder their motives with every new listen. That is what I meant by being challenged by the music. Highly listenable.
- R J Lannan
Artisan Music Reviews (US)
© 2020 Greydisc Records / Suigeneria Music [BMI]