Phil Durrant – modular synth and amplified objects
Bertrand Denzler – tenor saxophone
Burkhard Beins – percussion and objects
Since 2004, Trio Sowari has played dozens of concerts in France, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Germany and Portugal.
Trio Sowari’s members have also performed together in Mark Wastell’s ensemble The Seen.
They sometimes play duos with each other.
Festivals, Series and Venues (selection)
Colexpla (Porto), Labor Sonor (Berlin), Iklectik (London), Densités (Fresnes-en-Woëvre), Exploratorium (Berlin), Atelier Tampon (Paris), Bruisme (Poitiers), Crak (Paris), Ear We Are (Biel-Bienne), Cave12 (Geneva), CCAM (Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy), Offene Ohren (Munich), La Passerelle (Brest), Instants Chavirés (Montreuil), Crime (Lille), Fragment (Metz), Pied Nu (Le Havre), NPAI (Parthenay), All’Improvista (Nantes), Electronic Church (Berlin), CuBa (Münster), Nachtjournal (Cologne), Q-O2 (Brussels), Karbonmusik (Zurich), Total Meeting (Tours), Météo (Mulhouse), Musiques Innovatrices (Saint-Etienne), Espace Gantner (Bourogne), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (Strasbourg), Frakture (Liverpool), LMC (London), GRIM (Marseille), Rebonds (Albi), Carré Bleu (Poitiers), Abattoirs de Billère (Pau)
Although there is a considerable gap since their previous album together, straight from the start the three are right back together. Their music in this trio has always been characterised by their ability to listen to one another, allied to the restraint of their playing, which allows ample space for each of them to play and be heard clearly; they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. It is also part of the trio's ongoing evolution, as in 2016 Durrant was still using a laptop in addition to modular synthesiser whereas now he no longer does.
Across four tracks, ranging in length from under four minutes to almost fifteen, the energy level and mood vary considerably, giving each piece its own very different character, as reflected in their titles. So, the twelve-minute "Suspension" features a rather sinister modulated drone throughout that would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a low budget slasher movie—maybe a future path for the trio to consider? In contrast, the shortest track, "Exploration," features sounds that could have come from field recordings made in some distant land but were actually played in the studio. Very impressive.
– John Eyles, All About Jazz
Ultimately, tangible matters and vivid timbres become deprived of an owner: maintaining the ongoing flux is the rule of thumb. The musicians always manage to do this, with results often verging on the amazing. Intense concentration and earnest sharing during a performance give birth to a loss of the self, especially when the only relevant science – that of vibrational propagation – is taught with such austere modesty. Strike another five-star record for these gentlemen.
– Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
The title doesn't lie--this is the third release from this fine trio, the first since 2008. I'm not sure if the gap is intentional or not, but they sound as fine as ever. Phil Durrant (modular and software synthesizers), Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and objects) carve out a very unique sound area in the world of free improvisation, one that's quite full and colorful while avoiding over-satiation.
– Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Two days in July 2016 in Berlin was enough to get the show on the road again and recorded four excellent pieces that defy such notions as improvisation, composition, electro-acoustic music or musique concrete. It is all, perhaps quite rightfully so, quite blurred and as clear-cut as it could be. But that's how things should be of course.
– Frans de Ward, Vital Weekly
Now here’s a model of European cooperation, a group that could supply a soundtrack for some major EU gathering of dignitaries: Phil Durrant from London, Bertrand Denzler from Switzerland, resident in Paris, and Burkhard Beins from Germany, recorded in a French studio and released on a French label. On second thoughts, Trio Sowari’s vocabulary, the noise of faulty wiring and industrial evisceration, may not appeal to nervy politicos reeking of toothpaste. The organisation of those sounds is intensely musical, a combo of painstaking patience and improvisational juggling, but the sounds themselves are hardly ever ‘musical’.
The fairy twinkle of Beins’s music box at the top of “Bolero” comes as quite a shock. His percussion generally favours the gritty circular wipe, while Denzler pumps air through his tenor sax to produce any post-John Butcher sound you like so long as it’s not a note. Group leader Durrant’s electronics have a remarkable physicality that merges well with Denzler’s world of breath. On “Bolero” Durrant goes old school with satisfying spaceship noises, while we imagine knobs twiddling and dials flickering. The concepts underlying this music may have been forged in the icy, subterranean caves of Reductionism, but there’s generally plenty going on. The pace is slow, but you would never describe these three ‘dances’ as meditative. Superficially it may sound like white coated folk running equipment tests at your local biotech lab, but the important thing is that those concepts are firmly grasped. This is disciplined, focused music, the sound of people really thinking and playing, and close attention is consistently rewarded.
– Clive Bell, The Wire
Trio Sowari’s first release, Three Dances, was one of the musical highlights of 2005. Happily, their follow-up, Shortcut, is every bit as good. One of things that’s particularly impressive about it is tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler’s astute deployment of the mostly unorthodox sounds he draws from his instrument. In some quarters it has been argued that saxophones are an anathema to EAI, that they sit uncomfortably in the music. Denzler proves otherwise. His blasts of tuned air and percussive pad tapping blend superbly with Burkhard Beins’s largely textural rather than percussive approach to his kit, especially when Beins makes swishing sounds by gently rubbing one of his drumskins with a block of polystyrene. Beins also plays ‘small electrics’, which merge with Phil Durrant’s software samplers and treatments.
Particularly good examples of the trio’s textural interplay can be heard on Corridor and the pointillistic track that immediately follows it, Dots #1. Running to almost ten minutes, the latter track is one of the lengthiest on the aptly titled Shortcut; most are half that length or less, and the five parts of Piercing, with which the CD begins, total less than four minutes. But even when the trio is working in Webernian miniature there’s nothing insubstantial about the music, it’s robust and emphatic, merely stripped of inessentials. Though ideas are sometimes teased out at length, as on Trespassing, the turnover of events is often surprisingly swift – or perhaps it just seems like that because the music is consistently engaging.
– Brian Marley, Signal To Noise
Recorded at La Muse En Circuit studio just outside Paris at the end of November 2006, Shortcut is a fine follow-up to Trio Sowari’s 2005 debut outing Three Dances, also on Potlatch. I suppose you’d still file it away under “EAI”, but it’s a good example of just how difficult that particular term is to define. Long tracks? Well, not necessarily: the first four are over and done with in under three minutes. Slowmoving? Not always: anyone who’s seen Messrs. Durrant (Phil, laptop) Beins (Burkhard, percussion) and Denzler (Bertrand, tenor sax) in action will have been impressed by the often sprightly nature of their music, and that’s very much in evidence here. Quiet? For the most part yes, but not always: Durrant in particular can get quite boisterous when he wants to. His violin has been sitting in its case for a while now, but Shortcut’s intricate exchanges have more in common with his earlier work, notably the great trio with Johns Butcher and Russell, than you might think. Those who’ve taken it upon themselves to seek out precursors of latterday EAI / lowercase / reductionism have been quick to point to AMM (logically enough, given Keith Rowe’s prominence in the scene), but I have a sneaking suspicion that John Stevens’ work with the various incarnations of his Spontaneous Music Ensemble might prove to have been just as influential in the long run. I’d argue that a line could be traced back from the tight interplay of Shortcut’s superb closing track “Moving Targets” via The Scenic Route to the SME’s A New Distance and Face To Face. That said, there’s nothing remotely retro about this music: the sonic pinpricks of “Dots #2” are as exquisitely placed and compelling as anything on Durrant’s two seminal lowercase outings with Thomas Lehn and Radu Malfatti, beinhaltung and dach, and the rich textures of “Trespassing” should certainly appeal to EAI purists, all 150 of them. Musicianship and creativity of the highest order – if it didn’t make it to your Christmas stocking this year, make sure it gets there in 2009.
– Dan Warburton, ParisTransatlantic
Someone is listening. Shortcut, the second release by European minimalist improvisation group Trio Sowari is proof enough. They’re listening, not in the auditory sense, but in the experience of harkening, attending, and actually hearing.
Trio Sowari is comprised of Phil Durant, the English violinist turned electronics specialist, Swiss saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, and German percussionist Burkhard Beins. This release, like 2005’s Three Dances (Potlatch Records), is a schooled recording, favoring restraint over noise and texture over chaos.
Don’t plan to get up and dance to this music. It requires attention to pick up clues from the sounds. The trio keeps things, for the most part, unobtrusive and placid without becoming apathetic. That’s because the three interact so well. Betrand Denzler who has worked with Jean-Luc Guionnet, Stephane Rives, and Frederic Blondy, is a master of the breathy saxophone; mining his instrument for pop, inhalations, clicks and over-blown notes. Paired with percussionist Burkhard Beins (Phosphor) and superstar Phil Durrant, the saxophonist falls into the groove. Well, maybe not a groove so much as a conscious style.
The listening experience here is either the confounding question of who made what sound or it is simply a reflection on the textures created. From the on/off switching of the very short “Piercing” pieces, with lengths from 17 seconds to 1:19 to the rumble of “Moving Targets” and the ticking of “Dots #2,” the sounds offer the meditative simplicity of the acoustics of electricity that cannot be ignored. It’s unclear how or what they’ve done, but surely Trio Sowari has done it again.
– Mark Corroto, Allaboutjazz
These fellows occupy a nice zone within eai, more scratchy than most, more nervous perhaps but never, in my experience, overbearing. They divide things in 13 cuts here, including five brief pieces at the start totaling about 3 1/2 minutes. Beins, the other evening, mentioned something about wanting the disc to unfurl in chapters, beginning with brief flashes, then expanding. Works very well. Hard (for me) to describe without going into more detail than I have tie for. Suffice it to say that Trio Sowari’s particular blend is unique, tangy and unfailingly rewarding. Good stuff.
– Brian Olewnick, olewnick.blogspot.com
Because the group makes form an essential part of its pieces, surprise is a constant element on the album, with some tracks exploring the particulars of a given set of sounds from beginning to end and others constantly changing their direction or engaging in a free stream of consciousness devoid of any obvious structural episodes. Instead of trying to compete, Durrant, Denzler and Beins effectively eradicate their egos as well as the specifics of their instruments in the process of performing: Not only is it becoming increasingly hard to distinguish who is playing what (with the odd exception of an Oxygen-rich Sax breath or a naive Glockenspiel note sounding in the distance), but also which sources are electric and which are not. The result of these alluring and positively sensual investigations is a dense and coherent sound composed of a myriad of building blocks, which allows both for macro- and micro-listening.
– Tobias Fischer, tokafi