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Friday, February 29, 2008

Co Streiff Sextet - Loops, Holes & Angels (Intakt, 2007) ***½

Shifting between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the Co Streiff Sextet finds a great balance of world music rhythms and avant-garde explorations and traditional jazz. The band consists of Co Streiff on alto and soprano sax, Tommy Meier on tenor sax, bassclarinet and balafon, Ben Jeger on piano, farfisa, clavinet and accordeon, Christian Weber on double bass, Fredi Flükiger on drums, percussion and balafon, and Russ Johnson on trumpet and flugelhorn. Co Streiff's compositional talent is excellent, one track after the other brings strong musical themes, with lots of room for improvization and with a great rhythmic basis. The first track is modern jazz, the second moves into real African territory, the beautiful third piece mixes both styles with some electronics. The slow "Batak" brings some intense music, with slow balafon and piano, with great solos by Streiff and Johnson. Her soloing is quite restrained, very melodic and precise. Her long solo on "Chtau" is a real beauty. And Johnson is excellent too (by the way, his "Save Big" album is a real treat, as was his collaboration last year on Nicolas Masson's "Yellow (A Little Orange)", two records worth looking for), forming a perfect match for Streiff's playing. His bluesy solo on "Die Brücke" is so deep and touching that you wish it would never stop. Not everything works though : the accordion is added at the intro and outro of "Chtau" and I'm not quite sure how it fits with the rest. The variation on the album is great but not always very coherent, leaving the musical unity of the whole album somewhat lacking. Yet the overall quality of each piece is so good that it makes this a worthwhile album.

Below you can see a video with the Swiss female jazz band Ratraba with Co Streiff on alto, Hilaria Kramer on trumpet, Beatrice Graf on drums and Karo Hoefler on bass.