There’s something special about the religious chapel as a setting for experimental music performance, especially an improvisation. Whether your preferred example is Mural’s Rothko, Keith Rowe’s Fairchild, or Áine O’Dwyer’s iconic Music for Church Cleaners, the building and space itself is always an established presence (or absence) in the music, its cavernous corners swallowing the frayed, decayed edges of confidently-conjured sounds, the passion and purpose contained within them soaking into the ancient walls. Jennifer Simone and Bob Bucko, Jr.’s first duo collaboration immediately gives a sense of that yawning openness, both from its geometrically arranged cover photo and the droning, organ-like dirges that begin the proceedings. That classic chapel instrument is nowhere to be found on Simone & Bucko, however; the only two instruments present are saxophones, Simone’s baritone and Bucko’s tenor. Their interplay is largely tonal: interlocking serenades of slightly discordant scales, dual overtone-drones, sublime major-key resolutions, lethargic call-and-response flurries. But what becomes more noticeable over the course of the nearly-50-minute set is everything but the saxes—the muffled wails of distant police sirens, the clacking of the musicians’ valves as they form their notes, the pregnant dead air that hangs in the recording like a shroud.
Simone & Bucko was originally released on cassette in 2018. This review concerns the digital reissue.