Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano - The Beloved Music (Family Vineyard CD)
To date, drummer Chris Corsano and reedsman Paul Flaherty have released four albums in their "duo" configuration, with "The Beloved Music" being the most recent of them. They also released the "Last Eyes" and "Steel Sleet" LPs last year, as well as the spiritual sister to this, "The Hated Music", as their debut in 2001. In between all those sessions, they've been appearing on record or on stage in various formats with Greg Kelly, Steve Baczkowski, Thurston Moore, Matt Heyner, Carlos Giffoni, Nels Cline, Wally Shoup, and many others. According to David Keenan's liner notes, this set was recorded live in Louisville, Kentucky in May 2004 on a bill with Kris Abplanalp and Pete Nolan.
The cover shot of the two dog (?) skulls posed head-to-head does a poor job of describing the Flaherty/Corsano ethic, making the two titans seem like they've got their tusks locked in an epic battle like two members of the same herd grappling for supremacy. On the contrary. Though the duo's sound is ferocious, complete with wild eyes gnashing jaws, they work together exquisitely and the musical interplay between them is something to behold (belove?). The first track "The Great Pine Tar Scandal" displays this almost immediately, starting off with a loner duck call from Flaherty's sax and some rambled percussion from Corsano...soon enough the two meet on a common ground and lurch forward together, with the drumming getting increasingly frantic and Flaherty blowing massive squalls that could almost be taken for guitar feedback. Only two minutes in to the 12 minute track and they're already going at it with a full head of steam, Corsano's bashing his kit like an agile caveman and Flaherty spooling constant threads of wildly free, post-Ayler sax mutations. There's a total testicle-clenching moment halfway in where Corsano takes a powder and Flahery is left hurling sax superballs at the wall, and make no mistake that the balls are definitely to the wall. Corsano hops back on the train and the two ride it out on and on into the night, with guns a-blazin' all the way home.
Number two is "A Lean and Tortured Heart" which opens with a 6-minute solo performance from Corsano, starting out slow but soon bursting into all different directions, by way of Rashied Ali, Hamid Drake, and...Mick Harris? I'm sayin' it. Flaherty comes storming in and drops some not-so-delicate blots over Corsano's dinosaur-footed stomps, before a brief pause and a proverbial brick shithouse's worth of brain-flattening greased-lightning energy. At ten minutes in (the song's halfway point), Flaherty does another solo jaunt, more controlled and bass-y than the one from the previous track, lulling you into a state of false security and allowing Corsano to romp all over your psyche when he does return with a snare-rush so powerful it'll nail you to the floor. No shit. They do this a few more times before the track's calmed conclusion, flying in and dropping out either together or one at a time, but the trick only grows more entertaining with each successive usage.
The final track of the triad is "What Do You Mean This is a Dry Country?" probably the noisiest and most rambunctious track of the album, which says a lot considering the workout the other two just gave me. It's also the best example of the mind-meld that invariably occurs when these two get together, as they work almost exclusively in tandem the whole way through. Flaherty abuses his sax to the point of submission as it almost sounds like it's crying for mercy, while Corsano punctuates its screams with heady, flatlining bass drum wallops. The duo conjure up a veritable whirlwind of musical fury, the kind that'll have the room spinning and you seeing stars in no time at all. It's a wonder the two can even keep their feet on the ground while playing it. Corsano spends most of the middle of the piece on some alone time, having a furious go at his kit and barely relenting before Flaherty rejoins and helps push the song along into near white-noise territorial bliss. The wooing and applause at the end of the track can't even begin to do the set justice.
It seems increasingly rare in these jaded 2000's we inhabit to come across music that is passionate, honest, and (of the utmost importance) unironic. Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano, while still maintaining a sense of humor (see the baseball-referencing "Pine Tar Scandal"), have managed to pull off all three almost effortlessly. I've heard people call the duo's music "post-hardcore jazz" and I guess that's about as fitting as anything I could ever come up with. Whatever the case may be, I call it intense, exhilerating, entirely unique and absolutely essential.