Using the conventional instrumental lineup of bass, piano, guitar, and percussion, the Kevin Frenette 4 - a Boston-based free jazz quartet - manages to produce some mighty distinctive music on their debut CD, Connections
. Frenette is a new name to me. He plays fleet, darting, effortless lines with a clean tone and a pronounced jazz sensibility - not unlike fellow avant-guitarists Bruce Eisenbeil and Joe Morris. Like Frenette, pianist Andy McWain is a technically accomplished player with a busy, aggressive style. He's recorded with drummer Laurence Cook, and tenor saxophonist Assif Tsahar, amongst others. On the opening track, the piano and guitar trade salvos of notes, chords and clusters over a constantly shifting background of odd percussive sounds and harmonics produced by bassist Todd Keating and the world-renowned percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani. Similar confrontations between McWain and Frenette occur throughout much of 'Network Theory,' which also features some quite radical arco bass work from Keating, a fleeting moment of surprisingly orthodox jazz drumkit playing from Nakatani, and an all-too-brief passage of solo guitar.
Though the CD is dominated by hyperactive piano / guitar / percussion interplay, the quartet settles in to utilize a number of different approaches, making Connections a pleasantly varied free improvisation recording. 'Correlation Coefficient' unreels at a markedly slower pace which imparts a pleasant sense of space, reflectiveness, and patience to the proceedings. Nakatani's restless, ever changing percussion work on this track brings the playing of great European free jazz drummers such as Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton to mind. By contrast, 'Logic Synthesis' is a spooky, slowly-developing piece with Nakatani's expertly manipulated bowed percussion and Frenette's legato, volume-swelled guitar out front. Frenette steps back to play a heavily tremolo-ed repetitive line which forms the backbone of 'Amalgamation,' largely a vehicle for fevered duets and solos by McWain and Nakatani until the leader steps out for a particularly incisive solo as the piece comes to an end. The CD closes with one of its strongest tracks - 'Merger Doctrine' - a spooky, yet eloquent wash of sound and acoustic static.