This is a second time when I am listening to KSQ music, both recordings had been cut off for Berlin based independent Traumton records label. Bern based Quartet appeared to me as highly virtuoso formation from the very first time and this latest appeal only affirm that conviction. Three years passed since and to be perfectly honest I listened to that music a lot meanwhile, so seeing that new one coming was nothing but the water for my hunger-mill.
Here we have a mix of both: compositions coming from the band members as well as other composer’s literature, for example their compatriot Nik Bartsch, one of another favourite young band-leaders. Or Mathias Ruegg, legendary founder and director of the Vienna Art Orchestra. Let’s start from those then. Modul 17 originally written for Ronin appeared at least few times on their recordings. It is very minimalist piece of music, with repetitive rhythm and very precise timing. Quartet arrangement is very lyrical, and it drags out a lot of melody from the music. Original is more mathematical in its precision. By the harmony built on strings the music gets drive from bowed chords in unison rather than Nik’s piano chops. Music sounds a little like a Different Trains (by S. Reich) performed by Kronos Quartet, to make some valid point of the reference.
Alles Walzer, as it is a case with an orchestral piece sounds much bigger and multi melodic as might be expected. The richness of the original demands from musicians even more creativity and to cover those needs the music is performed not just with the traditional Quartet expression, but also with use of voices merged with the bowed them as well as a lot of percussive effects added to the tissue. But it also draws a lot from a Balkan folk in the same time and those Rubato movements are bringing some nice colourants. The same can be said about quotes from Vivaldi and Menuhin, put into the tune with very specific sense of humour.
Another minimalist piece I enjoyed a lot is a closing Iceland. It tastes like a breeze and the sense of sort of like being hung in a fog is beautifully brushed by the bows. Illustrative nature goes further with the motoric movements between the melody lines acting little bit like choruses in the symphonic piece. In climax violin solo makes fantastic harmony with remaining three voices coming into the culmination with perfectly controlled tension and certain trace of distortion to counterpoint a purity of coming after unison.
But my absolute favourite of that recording is the one called Introspection, from the pen of violinist David Schnee. It is wonderful melody which flies over the accompaniment of the others playing gentle pizzicato in the background to join the conversation later, one by one. The tension and an emotional balance of the tune is insanely beautiful and the merge of freedom with slightly Appalachian, slightly Balkan with the classical chamber music bowing routine and romantic articulation is nothing but hypnotising you. Listening to it is like spinning around in the middle of the meadows and watching the sun through the closed eyelids.
Release: February 2nd
Veronika Harcsa & Bálint Gyémánt Shapeshifter
With two albums to date (Lifelover and Tell Her), duo Veronika Harcsa and Bálint Gyémánt have thrilled the press and audiences since 2014. “Allaboutjazz.com said: Harcsa is an amazingly versatile musician, a brilliant vocalist and gifted entertainer in the best sense.” The MDR said: “Harcsa’s voice oscillates in very different colours. […] Once she sounds like the jazzy sister of Alanis Morissette and the next moment she becomes a spherical siren. “And in the magazine Audio was read:” Tell Her is a commitment to the artistic peculiarity, but beyond that a chamber music laboratory of styles that enchants and shapes the fragile texts, the clear, radiant timbre of the voice and the cautious yet complex music. Fascinatingly barren and powerful at the same time. “
Fourth recording from young saxophonist and the leader of Norwegian quartet Hanna Paulsberg, brings some new inspirations. To me equally interesting is a dedication of the record to Pharoah Hatshepsut, which these days when the world is ruled by weak and false male hypocrites and the women need to fight for their rights again, has a special meaning.
Like them back in time Hatshepsut had to fight for her independence and respect, what sadly shows that despite so called civilisation the humanity goes in circles over and over through the same gender wars. But let’s get back to the music.
Paulsberg’s inspirations, unlike most of the other Scandinavian players are not taking that much from the folklore but heading back towards an American source and as a natural extension, back to their African roots. This project in particular shows that concept.
An opening Scent of Soil starts with a lovely intro, doubled with the harmony created by the choir of musicians in short choruses. Leadingbass line and holding melody piano are both creating a canvas for that slowly opening piece, where Hanna together with the special guest, trumpeter Magnus Broo holding the melody together solo or in lovely unisons. It brings the intensity of the late Alice Coltrane recordings with a spiritual twist hidden between the lines, but also with very vivid trumpeter’s solos a contemplative nature, Jon Hassel alike.
Another track, Serriana has similar harmonic richness but with more figurative appearance of the brass, audible when melody is passed by from one musician to another and then held back in circles.
Little Big Saxophone coming after is a different creation. Piano and rhythm section is waving the framework for high brass flights. Here is where intense double lines from sax and trumpet are dialoguing with percussive piano chops. Again, Broo’s presence seems to be a great idea giving a band departure from the sound which we are remembering them for from the past recordings. This Brass Fantasy brings to the memories Lester Bowie’s conversations with Hamiet Bluiett, but in a different register of course.
Hemulen Tar Ferie is my favourite piece from that recording, possibly because it comes in its onomatopoeic approach as close to my beloved an Art Ensemble of Chicago or AACM sound in general. It is most intuitive track with a lot of invention developed from all the band members and holding into simple and beautiful melody in the same time.
Title tune is the One about her. It has that nomadic feeling, with the drummer creating a Caravan alike feeling on rides with bassist chopping intervals and laying the groove in the same time. Sax lines are very pretty here, very Coltrane-esque in their simplicity and they had been executed. Lovely straight notes, not a lot of thrill, which had been left for trumpet to bring. Duets of both instruments are brushing a clear view for the subject with no doubts or foggy feeling.
Closing Bouncing with Flower Buds, is again bringing a post AACM aesthetics with lots of freedom given to the rhythm and articulation allowing musicians to elevate their voice in the mutual tissue into a different level of the conversation. Lovely piece which I admire a lot. Phenomenal recording all together.
The 20th album, and just before the 20th anniversary! The legendary wonder orchestra, dining out of a seemingly inexhaustible pool of madly talented academic musicians under the direction of the renowned Norwegian bassist OLE MORTEN VÅGAN (MOTIF).
Ever since Jan Garbarek put Norwegian jazz on the map in the late 1980s, and even more so after the international success of his rigorously ascetic Officium in 1994, the music has acquired a reputation for being, if not entirely lacking in passion, then for being, at least, emotionally detached. More recently, with the emergence of a new generation of Norwegian musicians aligned with the electronica movement, the country’s jazz has, justly or unjustly, acquired a parallel reputation for being obsessed with technology and overly self-referential.
Let’s dive into the extraordinary world of Matanzas. Led by Don The Tiger’s deep, expressive voice, we’ll find out how Cuban bolero can smoothly collide with experimental recording techniques, how the spirit of Andalusian processions can coexist with video game music, and how Catalan sardana can morph into a cubist strain of ambient music. We’ll also encounter murderous sharks, doomed relationships, parrots & pirates, and even a fisherman of the disappearing Aral Sea.
Frode Haltlim a musician known to me from very climatic, romantic and heart-warming recordings for the German ECM label, therefore this concept we are talking about took me completely by surprise, and a wonderful one should I add. The title of that recording kind of announces that the Folk we are about to experience differs from the tradition, but still is the one. Norwegian music had always had that potential in its folk tunes which jazz-men found to be very attractive and vastly explored from middle 50’s.
An opening Hug is the best example of that sounding like the cross of classical tunes taken into collective improvisation by an unusual Tercet of the musicians possessing multiple skills. It is joyful and psycho-motoric, showing how and inventive the use of traditional instruments can change the tune which is supposed to be a dance in the past. It still remains as such in its choruses, where it kept its marinist character, somehow possible to feel and point out.
Miraculous trumpet solo by Hildegunn Oiseth is the cherry on the cake here, especially when it goes to conversation with the harmonium in the pitch.
Trio coming after is wonderfully focused. Lamented voice of Hardanger fiddles played by Erlend Apneseth, musician gifted with an incredibly lyrical sensitivity whose music I already learned to love deeply interacts with selected voices which keep changing as it goes and stay in or go out of the tissue depends on the feeling.
Kingo is sounding to me a bit polyphonic with the monotony of the drums beating in the background on which a warm melody is progressing and gaining more and more dynamics with every phrase. From a gentle thrill it grows to a march like pattern on which a quirky slide guitar glitters gently first to expand into a full rave. Following Haltli’s accordion brings it from frogging like chattering in muffled Rumba into full Bolero blossom. Here again Hildegunn Oiseth’s trumpet comes with perfect improvisation implementing some sort of ecstatic Jewish religious element. None of the pieces here is shy neither lacks an invention, but that one is spectacular.
Coming after Gratar’n with its dark, lurk bass and accordion suspense alike melody is in the same time terrifying and terrific. The gentle beauty of it reminds me arrangements which Michael Nyman used to make in his music composed for Peter Greenaway’s movies. The pace and the feeling of the movement there, with dynamics controlled tidy at the same time and dreamy sense of abeyance.
The overall beauty of this recording puts such a spell over the listener that one can hardly believe that it’s already gone once the last tune ends. It is only five of those marvels there and they hardly lasts 40 minutes, but they all make time stop. Your mind will be floating and the sense of time will be all gone.
As an Avant Folk they passed five stars for be the Big Time, just like Lester Bowie’s Avant Pop did some thirty years back. Another time and another Brass Fantasy here, but the same glimpse of genius.
Probably the greatest attraction of this year festival and unquestioned Mega Star is Terry Riley. Two out of Four only concerts in the UK are taking place here in Brighton in St.Luke’s church, one more in Bristol and one in Manchester. Needles to say it only took two days in April to get it Sold Out.
Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival present the 2018 edition. The festival’s opening night on Thursday October 4th takes place at The Verdict Jazz Cub. Headlining is UK improvisation pioneer, saxophonist Trevor Watts and long-time associate Veryan Weston on keyboards and electronics, presenting their Quantum Illusion project. What a start !