On the first listen to this album I sensed that it would be a strong contender for 5 stars. It's an album that covers everything interesting and important in improvised music. It explores, swings, uses dissonance, melody, it surprises and delights you. In fact it's a lesson in what's not being taught in jazz conservatories world wide, how to make individual music that blurs boundaries and shows a sense of tradition.
Achim Kaufmann has been on the scene for many years and yet he seems to slip under the general listening public's radar screens, and when talking about top quality music, this album really stands out. A strong statement with not a dud on the album, all tracks are first-rate. From the starting 'Permission (Dingbats)' which moves gently around like the swell of the sea, to the last tune 'E Jinx'(Tk 10), a sort of minimalist repeated melody with a very strong rocking - Jim Black - beat, it's also short and sweet. These tunes sandwich the other eight exceptional tunes which although very free in feeling are also very strong melodically. 'Elephant and Boats' (Tk 1) goes everywhere before settling down. Kobuk (Tk 3) seems to lurch about as if three drunks were playing with a beautiful togetherness. 'Bright industrial Smile' (Tk 5) is a swinging tune with Andrew Hill feel to it, probably the closest one gets to a standard jazz piece.
Tk 7 'La Quadrimoteur' feels as though three musicians are fighting over who has the melody with frantic playing and heavy piano, bass and drums. In fact the last half of the album takes you by surprise as tracks 7, 8, 9 & 10 are highly rhythmic pieces, almost funky in their conceptions. It's a great way to keep the listener involved as the music constantly picks up throughout the album and by the time you arrive at the last few tracks you're hooked. In part the success - of the trio and the CD - is in the groups ability to play music which although rhythmically complex sounds so natural, almost like a magician who makes the impossible look so easy. The album is also very musical, not at all distant, making for very enjoyable but stimulating listening.
An excellent album which is highly recommended, and possibly my choice of album of the year? (*) If you look through the blog (Stef is also a Kaufmann fan) you'll notice many other fine albums from this excellent pianist and this could be the moment to discover Kaufmann if you don't know him already.
The trio is : Achim Kaufmann piano, Valdi Kolli bass, and Jim Black drums.
* = Hmmm, difficult to decide which ones to vote for as yet ...?