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Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Transit - Shifting Moods (Konnex, 2011) ****

By Stef

Swiss soprano and altoist Jürg Solothurnmann has not released many albums as a leader, and the previous release by his band "In Transit" already dates back to 2007. The band further consists of Michael Jefry Stevens on piano, Daniel Studer on bass and Dieter Ulrich on drums. Despite its lack of recordings, the band  is quite tight and coherent, with the saxophonist and pianist being incredibly like-minded inside-out players, staying real close to the jazz vocabulary and grammar, but then speaking a slightly different language with it. That language is full of pulse and lyrical flow, yes stays away from recognisable themes and structures. The pieces are, after all, fully improvised.

Their language can range quite widely. On the second piece, "Color Deep", Michael Jefry Stevens starts with a sweet, almost impressionistic piano piece, with Studer and Ulrich demonstrating their dexterity by adding minimalist accents to the overall sound. Solothurnmann then beautifully captures the same mood to continue where the piano left off, maintaining the subdued atmosphere till the end. A a matter of contrast, the next piece "Spices & Devices, Part 1", starts with a strange repetitive phrase on the piano, leading to lots of counter rhythms from drum and bass, and some distressed playing by the sax.

The strength of the band is its power to create together. Even if the four musicians are great, this is not about the soloing per se, not about the expressivity of the individuals, it's about the joint creation of really nice music, one that can best be described by gentle adventurousness. It doesn't have the spectacular tension of Alpine skiing, but rather the slowly evolving beauty of cross-country, if you want a weird analogy.

© stef