kevin kastning Becoming. Not quite free-form, this is like a series of slightly angular tone poems.

Label: Greydisc
Time: 14 Tracks / 68 minutes

Kastning describes the recording process in his liner notes. The trio had most of a day between performances to make the recording in a hall with a long, glass wall that looked out over a courtyard. The trees there were well populated with birds, some of which made their way onto the album.

That setting may help to convey the relatively tranquil mood of these pieces, which reflect a more irregular impression of birdsong. They are not quite free-form, but neither are they melodic. The disc could be classed as jazz – the trio does seem to use ‘jazz chords’ wherever possible – but it is more impressionistic, playing with phrases in bursts, rather than developing themes.  It may help to think of it as a series of slightly angular tone poems.

Kastning and Szábo both play stringed instruments. Kastning, who has been tutored by Pat Metheny, has a new baritone classical guitar to add to his twelve-string bass baritone guitar, and occasionally he contributes piano. Szábo plays classical and sixteen-string guitars, a ten-string viola caipera guitar and adds some Chinese accents with a guzheng.  Major plays percussion.

While the trio may have prepared some material beforehand, the quick recording window could equally reveal an off-the-cuff session that sounds more like the start of a composing season than an end.The two guitarists normally improvise together for recordings - or as Kastning puts it, they share "real-time composing." 

For me, this falls between two stools. The pieces are too jagged to be calming, but the improvisations do not develop and resolve in a way that makes for satisfying listening. 

There are exceptions: “For You Only Know” ends with a riff that touches both Western and African moods, and the group sounds at its best in “Infinite Ancient Resolve,” where they give more time to slowing down the music and letting notes hang, as this creates more of a ambience. And although the music can become over-alike after several tracks, at the end I can be enjoying the atmosphere enough to wish that it continued.

This is one for those who like their music avant-garde, impressionistic and light.

Derek Walker