With a program built around his rugged compositions, Canadian expatriate alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel and his Gorilla Mask trio mine the seam of improvised music with implements forged equally from effervescent melodies reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s electric bands and the obdurate rhythms of punk rock. At the same time, the Berlin-based saxophonist and his Teutonic associates, bassist Roland Fidezius and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner, bring a refreshing originality to the tracks, with animated musicianship stressing exhilaration over power beats.
The title track, “Broken Flower,” and “Fast & Furious” together make up a mini-suite that emphasizes the power of the Kingston-born saxophonist. His jagged reed bites and split tones are fluid, but are also imbued with roadhouse-like honking strength. This is especially apparent on “Bite My Blues,” where Van Huffel’s hoarse split tones mine not only particular note patterns, but also equivalent extensions and partials. Fischerlehner’s thick backbeat and Fidezius’ unswerving pulse create an ostinato reminiscent of the blues standard “Spoonful.”
Elsewhere, the reedist’s versatility is on display. At points his choked expositions presage volcanic power about to burst into multiphonics; elsewhere his melancholic tone slurring suggests off-kilter funeral dirges. Sophisticated in his electric-bass manipulation, Fidezius can wrench a Jew’s-harp twang or bubbling slides from his instrument. Additionally, he often doubles the reed expositions. “What?!,” for example, affirmatively answers the question of whether speedy sax runs can harmoniously mate with watery, surf-music bass chording.
Van Huffel and company may be in simian disguise, but the musical power of this CD unmasks them as sophisticated and very human performers.