Piano-Drum Aggression

John Blum & Jackson KrallDuplexity (Relative Pitch, 2020)

Drummer Jackson Krall played with Marco Eneidi who played with Cecil Taylor. John Blum channels his inner Cecil Taylor on these two long duo improvisations. Somewhere in there is a common thread, one that I am not simply imagining (Blum’s bio does reference Taylor and Borah Bergman as mentors), and it’s an obvious ingredient to Blood and Bone, even if it’s awkward to articulate in print.

When I reference Cecil Taylor here, I don’t just mean that Blum is aggressive and abstract and slaps the piano a lot. It’s true that his stabbed chords match Cecil’s percussiveness on a surface level, but much of the track “Blood and Bone” also touches on Cecil’s rich harmonic language, at least to my ears.

If you picture a horizontal avalanche, an ocean made not of water currents but of endlessly tumbling, frictionless rocks — that’s the kind of flow Blum produces. Krall’s drumming maintains the energy. Even when he steps back, letting Blum drive solo, Krall adds occasional fills and crashes that let you know it’s not time to rest yet.

“Wind and Wing” opens with an aggressive splashing — a shower of needles — that becomes a dramatic entrance with the help of Krall’s drum roll and some very low-register piano rumbling. It never fully dies down. Even the “quiet” moments are fidgety, a continual flow of activity.

You could call the continual energy “monochromatic,” but that would miss the point and the intended mood of the album. You’re signing up for a workout. Be ready to sweat.