Killer : In Concert & On Record
Houston TX, 10 March 2002
Killer is a duet comprised of Lake Jackson (Texas) trombonist Brian
Allen and Phoenix pianist Jacob Koller. For the kick-off of their
second Southwestern tour in support of their recent CD release Brain
Killer (an interesting corruption of the names Brian and Koller),
they invited bassist Mark Dresser to play with them in concert at
Suchu, a dance studio in the downtown area of the city. Dresser stayed
over from the Jane Ira Bloom concert the night before to work with
this exciting group, and he then moved on to a solo concert in Austin
the next day.
displayed a robust, fully energized trombone style filled with great
intensity. Although previously announced to be a combination of compositions
by Allen or Koller, the entire set evolved into a spontaneous, instantly
created example of free improvisation. Allen and Koller as Brain
Killer have great empathy with each other's direction, and Dresser
was a natural fit into their highly unstructured approach to music.
Allen developed rich, open retorts from his horn. His sound had weighty
characteristics and dense volume, allowing him to project and communicate
on a direct line to the listener. Koller, who normally plays acoustic
piano, used the electric version for this event. Amazingly, he was
able to evoke an intense sound totally devoid of the characteristics
of fusion music that so often accompanies the instrument. He sculpted
with splattered hues and then expanded the pallet with assertive
statements that often changed the direction of the tunes. Koller
built up layers of dynamic sound, which seemed to ignite Allen into
heavier rounds of blustery speech.
is incredible to watch as well as hear. He was on a whirlwind adventure
with this music, constantly switching between pizzicato and arco
while introducing other techniques such as using a small rod to scrape
the strings or turn the bass into a percussion instrument. One could
see him intently listening to the others and then responding with
thunderous retorts from his upright.
The trio connected as a unit, and the sparse but dedicated crowd
witnessed a performance of invigorating, full-bodied improvisation
endowed with individual excellence and collective unity. This music
demands a much broader audience base.
their duet recording Brain Killer, the trombonist and pianist
play music that is a mix between improvisational style compositions
and pure improvisation. Allen sustains flowing lines of continuous
trombone waves doused in soft-hued tones, which contrasts highly with
the eruptive approach he displayed at the live concert. The staccato
playing method is not his preference on this date; instead, Allen
connects all his phases with a mellow, ringing tonality. Only rarely
does he infuse a piece with gruff textures. The session is comprised
of nine original compositions by Allen or Koller plus a nine-part
mini-suite of short exchanges written by Allen. All of the pieces
rely heavily on a pre-constructed phraseology that has classical music
overtones and reiterative phrasing. This structure then dissolves
into a freely expressed conversation, only to revert intermittently
to the notated side of the equation.
is an advanced colorist on the acoustic piano, adding shading, texture,
and density to the recording. Often, he and Allen play a composed
line in unison, underlying the serious themes with somber expressions
of deep feeling. Koller becomes an introspective improviser when
put in a solo situation. He presents delicate musings heavily laced
with a near-foreboding aura. Koller places muted punctuation marks
on the sentences of Allen, generally wrapping the trombonist's output
in warm, openly spun concepts. He picks up fragments of statements
made by Allen and rephrases and rearranges them into an altered language
of his own. Koller adeptly mixes the influences of European structure
with freeform music having a hint of the blues at its core.
The recording has many contrasts with the live performance, but
it shows the extensive range and talent of these two musicians who
produce stimulating music in multiple contexts.