Artist/s: Peter, Farrar, alto saxophone; Dale Gorfinkel, miscellaneous instruments; Staunch Nation and Disco 4, electronic sound sources
Reviewed by John Clare
“Farrar’s eruptive outpourings of clean angles and nasty tones in brilliant patterns or cubistically organised disarray are startling and often thrilling.”
When I first heard Peter Farrar his alto saxophone playing reminded me somewhat of the great Eric Dolphy: the brilliant tone – hard but limned with a subtle melodiousness; the sharp clean angles tracing often unusual harmonic paths; the unleashing of fierce dynamic contrasts, As quite likely the first to interview him for a publication I mentioned Dolphy, who had died prematurely in the same time span as John Coltrane and trumpeter Booker Little, both of whom he had partnered in deathless projects for those who had developed an interest in the jazz “avant garde” (for want of another term). Farrar declared that he had never heard him when he began playing. Nor when he, Farrar, began forming his current style.
Farrar’s modest frankness convinced me that this was certainly the case. Farrar’s propensity then, and more so now, was to reach for the song unheard, but with references to or altered echos of the deep tradition. Since then, though he still plays formidably in contemporary jazz and ethnic (Ethiopean at the present time) idioms, he has made signifigant departures into the area known by its exponents as New Music, though it has been around for some time, just as has the jazz avant garde. Both are still open to extremes and subtle developments.. Indeed it is sometimes difficult to decide into which category a particular example should be placed.
I care not how new the music is, but in this performance it might be hard to recognize the alto saxophone in there. If, as I did, you put the first track on and then performed various tasks while listening absently – as a familiarisation ritual – you would be conscious of a dominant juddering and stuttering pattern in a mainly barking tone. it can sound a little like a road drill or an idling motor boat.The impression is of a barking continuum sheathed in an atmosphere of assembled harmonics, slipping, soft and high above the central tone, or dropping echoically beneath . The barking is casually assumed to be the saxophone, and it is, but so it seems are all the sounds on this track.And they are.
Now sit down and listen closely. the pattern is not steady after all. It moves frequently into and out of different metres. There are falling retards and tiny accelarations. The closer one listens – and despite the tiny dimensions of the subsidiary sounds – the more this resembles flying through turbulence – the rhythmic side slips, sudden drops and laborious compensatory metric ascensions,and of course the vibrations. By now we have begun to feel strongly the momentum and the manipulations of time, fascinating to say the least.
Track 2 is a different story The alto is easier to recognize immediately, though it burbles and rasps, sometimes squalling and lashing like an angry cat. Where traditional music might work with supreme concentration to develop melodic subjects, themes and propositions, this is a fiercely sound based work. Further sonic explorations enlarge the atmospheric spectrum.
Incidentally, Farrar has not abandoned more familiar marvels of alto playing – though everything he plays is his unmistakably. I recently heard him at Pyrmont’s club Foundry 616 (Sydney) with the enormously impressive, exciting and amusing band The Cooking Club, which also traded in rapid time transitions, but with a more traditionally jazz oriented force and momentum. Farrar’s eruptive outpouring of clean angles and nasty tones in brilliant patterns or cubistically organised disarray are startling and often thrilling.