Julius Hemphill and Peter Kowald Live at Kassiopeia

There are times when one fantasises about the possible collaborations that might have been: Hendrix with Miles Davis, Jeffrey Lee Pierce with R.L Burnside, Capt. Beefheart with Sun Ra ― imagination is a wonderful thing. But when a vault somewhere pops open and a collaboration of two of improvised music's titans blows in from Wuppertal in 1987, one can be forgiven for being rendered speechless. This two-CD set from No Business documents three solo performances by Julius Hemphill on alto sax, one massive solo bass excursion by Peter Kowald and three performances in duo. Each states his persona clearly solo, with Hemphill working a happy ragtime, continuing with nods to Charlie Parker, drifting occasionally into blistering sheets of notes that wonderfully incorporate the melodies and changes he so lovingly started with, then taking one on the fastest train ride from New Orleans to NYC one can imagine. For his part, Kowald engages in a 32-minute teardown of acoustic bass (with occasional throat singing accompaniment) that's both encyclopaedic in technique and fully realised in composition, at times sounding more like a cello or percussion instrument. The duo takes are simply gems of communication and mastery of craft. There is a literal and unmistakable conversation happening, with each listening, commenting, changing the topic and laughing, all verbalised through via instruments. There is jazz lyricism, new music atonalism and full-on extended technique noise segueing with total ease and integrity. This is easily one of the best releases of the year, if not the decade, and a must-have for anyone seriously interested in music. (No Business)