About three-and-a-half minutes into “Hermit Thrush/Vat Of Oil,” the opening cut on three-song free jazz album After Commodore Perry Service Plaza, Dylan Baldi’s crooning alto saxophone metamorphoses into something gently chaotic. As the song continues to progress, Baldi darts between short melodic bursts and skronk. Underneath, Jayson Gerycz’s brush-played percussion and drumming provide scale, actualizing the recording space – Gerycz’s roomy, organized basement in Cleveland, which functions as a studio, shipping center, and – prior to the COVID outbreak – DIY showspace.
Though Baldi is in Philadelphia and Gerycz in Cleveland, together they play in the indie rock band Cloud Nothings – Baldi as singer, guitarist, and songwriter, and Gerycz as drummer – but both are active in the experimental underground as musicians, collectors, and in Gerycz’s case with his excellent, uncompromising Unifactor imprint, label owner. At the beginning of quarantine – a time when Cloud Nothings had to reconsider tours, releases, and scheduling for the year – Baldi & Gerycz released their debut duo LP Blessed Repair on Carpark Records, coinciding with one of the first “Bandcamp Fridays.” It may have come as a surprise to some Cloud Nothings fans, but for those who knew of their love of the underground, it made complete sense.
“We tend to do the free jazz sessions right at the end of long tours,” Baldi says, “or after making other records, so it’s a nice break from the more regimented song forms that the other bands have, or from playing the same songs every night on tour.” For Baldi & Gerycz, free jazz is a release – something to break apart stretches of familiar songwriting – and because of that, there’s a lot of joy in these recordings – see the raucous album closer “The Holy Retrievers (In Transit).” Admittedly After Commodore Perry Service Plaza is a bittersweet collection, though – compiled from the final session Baldi & Gerycz recorded in person. As such, it’s a cherished memory – it’s also kindling for creation – those original feelings inspire the duo to find novel ways to collaborate, even perform.
After Commodore Perry Service Plaza is a collection all about space, and is largely a quiet record. Lead single “Frog Congress At Dawn,” is a meditative piece, allowing each performer to breathe while showcasing the duo’s symbiosis. Baldi’s fluttering saxophone smoothly steeps the listener into the composition – Gerycz’s percussion considerately keeping in step. There’s a waxing and waning in volume, but the chatter never gets louder than conversational, speaking to the musicians’ ability to comfortably add to each other, but never overpower.