"Blackwater Bridge improvisations take place in the boundless territory that is located between a country named jazz and another named contemporary classical music. Saxophonist Garry Hassay comes from jazz, Anne Le Baron, harpist and renowned composer lives in the second country. Their gathering was effective just because the composer of “Rite of The Black Sun” is also an accomplished improviser and Hassay a musician fascinated with musical complexity that happens when one dominates the art of creating music in the moment, ensuring that this complexity does not live exclusively inside the world of musical writing, of which collaborations with Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris, Borbetomagus or Fred Frith are eloquent examples. The saxophone/harp formula (with LeBaron also playing percussion and manipulating a sound sculpture by Harry Bertoia) is pretty uncommon and has opened new ways to this recording: apart from exoticisms, one can experience the wonderful small sounds Anne LeBaron makes out of her instrument and the intertwining of the snake-like quality of Hassay´s saxophone, who is also the leader of Dr. Vincent Sakeeda´s Attack Ensemble. Heterodoxy in as far as tonality is concerned, infidelity with respect to the dogmas that conduct the extended use of the musical vocabularies, idealistically uncompromised, “with the authority of Pollock and the subtlety of Dalí” as Scott Hreha writes in his notes, showing the strong influence of plastic arts in this type of music. What we find here is one of the best records that we can listen to these days in the area of musical improvisation."
- Rui Eduardo Paes – translation by Eduardo Chagas
"Gary Hassay and Anne LeBaron perform a series of intimate and unpredictable duets on Blackwater Bridge. LeBaron’s extended techniques on harp yield a unique repertory of buzzes, hisses, and drones along with the more usual strums and plucking sounds, an imaginative complement to Hassay’s fervent yet controlled alto saxophone. Very intriguing and rewarding listening. These generally quiet free improvisations are sensitively realized and oddly intriguing."
- Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal Winter 2002/2003
"Hassay and LeBaron clearly enjoy a challenge, dancing rhythmically through their alto saxophone and harp duet session, Anne working the beat around with her grip of steel. It is surprising how well this combination works, though there is a very spooky quality to some of this music. LeBaron’s techniques such as bow on harp mesmerize, while Hassay’s alto revels in an atmosphere far removed from conventional jazz accompaniament. The harp’s sound carries as much punch as piano, though LeBaron spends a minimum amount of time evoking thunder, altering the harp’s traditional tones with metal slides, electronics, and unconventional techniques. Hassay puts his own spin on this by adopting some playhouse tones to heckle the infrequent moments of “proper” harp play. LeBaron likes to experiment and some of this gets loopy, her supple lines mined with adventurous effects, at times sounding like a wire coat hanger hitting a shopping cart. They sense where each other is going so well, it seems telepathic. The contrast between the two instruments could easily create a feeling of collision but here is a happy example of apples and oranges fitting together quite nicely."
Steve Vickery, Coda Magazine Issue 308
"Here is, to my way, one of the masterpiece of Drimala Records: it is about a duet constitued of Gary Hassay (alto saxophone) and Anne LeBaron (harp, perc, Bertoia sound sculpture). The former worked since 1979 with: Fred Frith, Andrew Cyrille, Peter Brotzmann, Tom Cora, Paul Rodgers, Keshavan Maslak or “Borbetomagus” and developped a very nice alto sound, veil, harsh and vibrating, rough, between Gianni Gebbia, Max Nagl and Evan Parker; The other studied with Gyorgy Ligeti, played with Muhal Richard Abrams, Paul Lovens, Ernst Reijeger, Derek Bailey … et specialised herself in electronic exploration of the harp and preparated harp. Here, her instrument resonate moreover like no other: time to time Koto or disacorded guitar or even almost piano … Violents or whispered, dry/sharp or matures, these improvisations elaborate, all along tracks, a tender, intimate and poignant free."
Marc SARRAZY – ImproJazz #95 May 2003 - Translation by Heddy Boubaker
"We’ve reviewed a couple of Gary’s CD’s before (issues #45 and #37); this one with Anne’s harp, sound sculpture & percussion takes it to the next level. Gary’s alto interacts most intimately with LeBaron’s sound paintings & sketches; the harp sounds against the saxophone make it an almost mystical experience. They are both to be complimented on their sensitivity to the sounds – it takes a great deal of skill and talent to play without playing over the other player in this kiind of improvisation. The “bridge” theme is clear, even without reading the liners… this isn’t a traditional pairing (harp/saxophone) for improvisation, you can hear (immediately) that this duo are out to do more than splash sounds on the canvas… they clearly intend to engage themselves and the listener in an adventure of exploration… go where others have not been before. This is not 'easy' listening… doubtful you’ll hear it anytime soon (probably never) on your “smooth jazz” station… but it is worth the concentration. One of the most intriguing parts (in the overall) of “Blackwater” is that neither artist uses their instrument to blot out the other’s excursion into uncharted territory; they listen to each other, & to the universe, if you will. If you have never listened to difficult music before, this IS the album to start with… by the time you finish listening, you will have definitely “crossed over” into new awareness (of the possibilities). This gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the 'PICK' of this issue for 'best exploratory improvisation'!"
- Rotcod Zzaj
"The soft, warm tones of Anne LeBaron’s harp wash over the gritty spurts streaming from Gary Hassay’s alto saxophone, resulting in an open, liberated, and very challenging duet of improvised music. Hassay puts a slight biting edge into his alto voice. He slings high-pitched spears of mercury into the air, but he also massages his style by coaxing elastic, airy whispers from his horn in caressed fashion. His output is met with the rising and ringing pebbles of purity coming off LeBaron’s harp, forming crystallized gems of tonality having both tenderness and strength. As with a rain cloud, the united sound is released from the atmosphere and falls gently to the ground. Hassay is very expressive on his instrument. He builds short phrases into elongated runs that, while being totally free statements of spontaneity, have a touch of lyricism in them. His thought pattern leans toward the introspective, giving his music character and depth. While certainly not a traditional jazz instrument, the harp has extended potential in the hands of LeBaron. She turns it into an improvising tool, plucking out aural jewels that mold into the framework of Hassay’s playing. LeBaron utilizes the full range of the instrument, dropping the tonality down to its lowest point before climbing back to the summit of high-register bell tones.bb She takes the harp out of the medieval era and brings it smartly into the 21st century with adept use of electronics, by which she is able to shape and augment the notes in extremely understated ways. LeBaron emphasizes, underscores, and punctuates Hassay’s improvisations and then builds her solos into intriguing flights of subtle delight. She ekes out gentle droplets of dew that evolve into cascading streams of instantly composed mystery. Sonically, the harp and alto form a hesitant, pensive union that grows into a perfect marriage of contrasting imagery. LeBaron etches the carving with fluted rings of gold while Hassay explores uncharted terrain with probing determination. This music is both spiritual and earthy, making it a work of substance to be pondered but most of all enjoyed."
- Frank Rubolino of One Final Note
"The concept of bringing noted new music harpist Anne LeBaron together with avant-garde saxophonist Gary Hassay would seem to be an attractive one. After all, the under-recorded and eclectic LeBaron has spanned the spectrum of freely improvised music, from modern classical to jazz, while the little known Hassay has distinguished himself as an innovative and creative performer. Somehow, though, these ten duo improvisations are something of a disappointment, as the two seem very much to be playing alongside rather than with one another. There are few synergistic moments when the two are on the same wavelength, although in fairness the collective expressive textures sometimes seduce with a surprising resonance. Hassay is the dominant voice, his lyrical alto riding gently and occasionally erupting, while LeBaron reacts or goes her own way. The harpist seduces a wealth of colors, a difficult task to be sure, resulting in subtle expressions that purr and fade into an impressionistic landscape. She infuses the instrument with a percussive element to complement its more traditional role. She eschews gimmickry, with the strings filling the role of bass and piano or vibes, but mostly simply adding a unique trajectory that spreads the sounds in several directions. There is a surprising peacefulness to the whole, as Hassay focuses on slowly unwinding lines, often in mid-tempo, leading to a gradually unfolding process that incorporates good use of silence and quiet."
- Steven Loewy, All Music Guide
released July 20, 2015
Gary Hassay, alto saxophone, Harry Bertoia sound sculpture, percussion
Anne LeBaron, harp