Briggan Krauss is sick. That’s the mantra that has been floating around Manhattan since the alto saxophonist’s arrival there in 1994. Since then, Krauss has become an over-active part of the downtown scene, playing almost every night in a host of ensembles, in his own projects (such as Good Kitty, the Fuzz Fill, the Carry On Transmit, and his latest, 300), and in other groups, such as Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob and Andrea Parkins’ Cast Iron Fact. The first time witnessing a Briggan Krauss solo is nothing less than extraordinary. Krauss has one of the most recognizable voices in creative music, and his solos employ a massive arsenal of sounds : the percussive punctuation marks, the exaggerated vibrato and supersonic range, and… that occasional flurry of notes that eerily alludes to a very embedded, yet revolutionary technique.
Recorded over a two-day period at the Knitting Factory, 300 reunites Krauss with keyboardist Wayne Horvitz (Zorn, Naked City), who played with Krauss in Seattle in the group Pig Pen, and continues the collaboration with Sex Mob drummer Kenny Wollesen. The 300 CD begins with the hard, driving frenzy of Krauss’ urgent destructiveness accompanied with the otherworldly DX-7 sounds Horvitz employs on “the hold.” The rhythmic force of compositions such as this one is balanced by the reflective melodies that Krauss writes for the acoustic domain, as in the understated beauty of “american” (Horvitz on piano). This transition between the digital and acoustic domains is a startling contrast, yet it creates a colorful, linear narrative throughout the CD via 15 relatively short compositions.
300 also provides a Sounds 101 course by Professor Krauss, who utilizes microtonic bursts of energy in “the plane” and incorporates flutter tones, growls, and shrieks that can make for high comedy in “sea monster” and “some woman’s strange laugh,” while simulating creatures reminiscent of a Naked Lunch orthopod on “first grain.” The 300 trio has undeniable focus, which is in no small part due to the Krauss-Horvitz experience and Wollesen’s gift of sheer anticipation and direction. 300 is a rare ensemble that can incorporate an array of sounds and rhythm executed in such a way that translate to a specific expression and mood, while balancing the energy with a moving storyline from beginning to end. Knitting Factory Works, 74 Leonard St., New York, NY 10013