What you are about to encounter is a meeting, an improvised meeting between two phenomenal string players. This is truly 21st century music as it couldn’t have happened—except during the last years—in the 20th century. Prior to the 21st century, if an encounter like this had happened, it would have been first in the so-called Classical (i.e. European rooted pre-composed music). In the second half of the century, with the sensibilities of improvisation in place, it would have been considered Third Stream, with all the awkwardness that most often stiffly accompanied this early hybrid of “Jazz” and “Classical.” But with the Post Bop revolution in music and the growing recognition of music genres’ common elements (not so much the differences), the possibilities for such an encounter became more realized. Add to that the refining of technique and the opening of minds as to what encompasses Art, in general, and music, specifically, and the awareness of what is possible, in music, all has led to a methodology that opens music limited only by the technique and imagination of its makers. Few in the mid 20th century could have imagined the majesty and depth of satisfaction instant composition/improvisation would achieve. And who could have imagined Mike Bisio (b.1955; Troy, NY) and Tomas Ulrich (b.1958; Columbus, OH)? Mike first gave me pause me when he sent me, in my capacity as Editor of Cadence Jazz Magazine, his 1983 sextet recording (C.T. Records) for review. It so impressed me in its concept and execution that I did what I’ve done only a few times: pick up the phone to share my enthusiasm in a cold call to the artist. It was the first time we had ever talked. We’ve been talking ever since and in 1996 he began recording on CIMP. Tomas also first recorded for CIMP in 1996 and has never failed to inspire my spirits. This co-led encounter is, to date, the closest Tomas has come to leading a session. Mike first encountered Tomas at a Lou Grassi jam session and “just thought he was outstanding.” Mike feels that the cello is the hardest instrument to cross over with, but found Tomas’ playing “just killed.” As a result, the two began to work on this collaboration in 2005. The duo arrived mid afternoon and had what amounted to a rather inspired sound check before dinner and the eventual start of recording around 7:30 p.m. They opened with a solid if unspectacular improv and then went on to Mike’s Blues for Melodious T., nailing it on the second take. Starstruck, a vintage Ulrich composition, followed. A lovely piece with a beautiful sub melody that eventually rises, through the cello, to the fore. It aches of melancholia and displays the haunting quality often found in Tomas’ work. Visually Tomas looked as absorbed by it as Mike looked perplexed; musically, however, they clearly are in concert and in concert also on Dom Minasi’s lovely multifaceted As the Spirit Moves. At this point we took a relatively extended break during which we discussed cats, erotic films, juggling, and the finer points of Tomas’ accidental movie career. After regrouping, Mike set up the technically demanding quietude of Two Joe Sopranos. Following the passionate tension of Two Joe..., I suggested a piece of another fabric, an exercise of the larger muscles. At this point Mike said, “OK. Why don’t we turn off all the lights for the larger muscles.” We did and they launched into the improv, Large Muscles, a passion of another sort. It’s ostinato time for Epilogue for Frank Z and, after the glorious take #1 with Tomas carrying the improvisation, it was suggested that a second take be attempted with Mike and Tomas’ roles reversed. Mike took the gutsy position of going bowless and it proves the perfect counterpoint to Part 1. Mike then continued in the deep soul vein for his solo outing on All Soul-O, and again had the lights turned out for that statement. Tomas also performed his solo, Call Waiting, in the dark. This dramatic piece had some special effects provided by a raging Northcountry wind that was accompanied by a snowfall outside. The sound of the wind, evident to us in The Spirit Room, may be audible to some, especially at about the 1:20 mark on this tune. With the lights now on and regrouped again as a duo, a similar vibe as that found on Call Waiting manifests itself on Up To Tomas, a piece that at its end suggests a string quartet, an indication of how big a sound this duo achieves. At this point, with nearly a full program achieved, we called it a night in order to again address, in the morning and with renewed energy, some technically demanding music. One such number, Its Own Universe, is a piece with the kind of balance and symmetry which demands excellence in technical execution as well as improvised statement. Once the formalities were done with, Tomas built a nice improvisation off the structure while Mike developed a parallel statement, at the same time holding form. Having accomplished that, the duo went into an improv (Longer Than Fours), sort of dueling strings linked in some sort of parallel thought. This was followed by Mike’s vamp of the day (Vamp On Out), giving Tomas one more chance to wax nostalgic, and a last listen to some wonderful sounds. Robert D. Rusch - March 15, 2006 Michael Bisio also appears on CIMPs 127, 179, 199, 209, 257, 323 and CadenceJazz Records 1022, 1017, 1063, 1121, 1127, 1180 Tomas Ulrich (cello) also appears on CIMPs 119, 141, 155, 162, 175, 186, 201, 203, 261, 280, 286, 321 and Cadence JazzRecords 1097, 1111, 1166.