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Wally Shoup / Chris Corsano / Paul Flaherty - Bounced Check / Blank Check

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Artist: Wally Shoup / Chris Corsano / Paul Flaherty

Album: Bounced Check / Blank Check

Label: Records

Review date: Aug. 13, 2008

Wally Shoup’s a cloudy figure. He’s been floating around for some time, and I’ve heard him on discs with Thurston Moore and other yokels, and known about his Project W ensemble, but he’s not really all that present, in the wider scheme of things. If your friends were to flip through an index of key free players of the past five years, I’m not sure Shoup would figure on all their lists. Which clearly is fucked, but what are you going to do?

The dual release of Bounced Check and Blank Check parallels 2005’s Steel Sleet and Last Eyes double-shot (both Flaherty/Corsano, and also on Records and Tyyfus). This new batch documents a gig at Gallery 1412 in Shoup’s hometown, Seattle, and the format makes a lot of sense, stretching the set across four sides that allow the audience plenty of breathing space. Where 70-minute discs of free playing can be a grind, the natural edit function of vinyl is advantageous; you can really focus in on the playing, and while you might lose a little in the way of immersion or duration, that’s chump change when the going’s this good.

“Carte Blanche” opens the set with Flaherty gingerly sighing away on single notes, stretching them across the room, letting them phase and modulate naturally. Corsano responds by wringing drones from bells and other metallics, while Shoup creeps slowly into the performance. After a while, though, the Flaherty/Shoup sax duo slip around each other in tongue-babble embraces. Meanwhile, Corsano’s playing, hyperactive but never overbearing, punctuates and comments while offering pulse through inference. His solo, which drops midway through the set, ducks and rolls at high speed, before a brief burst of sax interrupts, a hint to Corsano to extend the parameters of his playing – his subsequent shift, between pulsating, fiery, accent-heavy drum-battery and quiet, stilled pointillism, is glorious.

Similar things happen across the other three sides of these two records, and the going’s strongest when the intensity’s inescapable, as on “Emerald City Boogie” and especially “Carte Rouge.” Slapped alongside each other, they’re demanding listening. On many free/improv recordings, you can hear the players passing ideas to each other, but the response rate here is so lightning-fast, things turn on a dime. This stuff’s vertically stacked. Moments like these have Shoup, Corsano and Flaherty playing at their collective best, but there’s not a minute wasted across Blank Check and Bounced Check.

By Jon Dale

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