Does a piano know that it is piano, or a bass that it is a bass or a drum kit that it is a drum kit? If they did there would only be some ways to play an instrument. Since they do not, there are endless possibilities to make use of them. You can prepare the inside of the piano with found materials, you can hammer on the strings or pluck and stroke them, you can use all kinds of stuff as percussive material in addition to the original drum kit, you can bow the cymbals, or put small ones on the toms, you can even beat them with your hands, you can arco the bass strings in unusual ways etc. This is what Israeli pianist/composer/sound artist Maya Dunietz and the British rhythm twins John Edwards (b) and Steve Noble (dr) do: they use their instruments as raw material to explore new sound worlds.
Dunietz, a young voice in free jazz, is already one of Israel’s leading musicians in new music and a unique pianist who makes use of the whole piano improvisation history being able to quote the style of almost every great jazz pianist from Cecil Taylor to Marilyn Crispell or even Keith Jarrett. Certainly her approach is clearly post-modern avant-garde, but her playing can also be humorous, tender and abrasive – a unique player in other words. Edwards and Noble, who are to British free jazz what Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare are to Jamaican reggae, keep Dunietz going by knitting a tight rhythmic carpet enabling her to lift off and pushing her to the limits of creative improvisation.
Nevertheless they never forget to remain focused, adding fuel to the fire themselves. You can feel how Dunietz enjoys when Edwards and Noble join her on a certain groove or cool down the atmosphere or even start swinging for short segments, as in "And Under" and "I call you to order and a little bit of chin chin Jidwin". But elsewhere, on "Goose Bumps" and "Soleri", for example, which start like found object or bell symphony miniatures before the piano and the bass shyly enter the scene, they seem to encourage her to start off for a real free jazz breakout. Here the musical language of Edwards and Noble is highly eloquent, creative and varied - often even sophisticated, while Dunietz pulls out all the stops making her piano sound like needles raining down on a tin roof. What they display here is a constant box of surprises, an elegant stream of ideas, a mixture of splendid landscapes of sound, alternative rock grooves, boogie-woogie riffs, swing themes and wild boisterous outbreaks.
To me Maya Dunietz is one of this year’s newcomers and I am really curious about her future albums.
The trio celebrated the release of this recording at a live concert at Cafe OTO in London in December, 2011.
If you want to see how exciting they are and especially how energetic Maya Dunietz is you can watch the second part of the concert here: