Catherine Sikora and Brian Chase ­– Untitled: After

sikora chaseThis powerful new disc from saxophonist Catherine Sikora and percussionist Brian Chase – their first as a duo – is based on the classic Old English poem Beowulf. The great mythical dragon-slayer dates back to the first millennium, so far back in fact that historians don’t know the author’s name.

Sikora and Chase, on the other hand, are as modern as they come. Both bring significant followings to the project. Sikora has played with both Eric Mingus and Elliott Sharp. Chase drums for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and has collaborated with John Zorn. More recently, he launched his own label called Chaikin Records.

Untitled: After is in-your-face provocative. Their stripped down – sax and drums – approach to these eight tracks is a fitting tribute to a fictional monster-killer.

Sikora’s performances are passionate and commanding. If there was any doubt that she ranks among the best of today’s avant-garde jazz players, this disc is a triumphant response.

No matter the pace, her sax is an absolute force. It’s not difficult to imagine more than a few accompanists shying away from an invitation to join her.

Which is precisely why Chase is such a well-suited partner. There is no second fiddle in this duo. He’s with Sikora every step of the way. The interplay is inspiring. Neither leads nor follows.

Yet despite the density both are capable of producing, we’re never left with the impression that the two instruments are competing for airtime. These are two skillful artists pushing one another to remarkable heights.

In a shared note, Sikora and Chase describe the inspiration they’ve drawn from the themes of confrontation and courage in Beowulf. Both are on full display.

Kevin Press

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