An album that I proposed for the Happy New Ears Award, but that didn't make it to the final list, mainly because it had not been reviewed yet. The Swiss band consists of Co Streiff on alto and soprano saxophone, Gabriela Friedli on piano, Dieter Ulrich on drums, and Jan Schlegel on electric bass, a balanced quartet of two women and two men.
The music has a quite unique quality, working with composed parts in a very open-ended context, like islands floating in an ocean of possibilities, with some real jazzy moments in the traditional sense, with some boppish pulse and intimate playing, as on the closing track "Straying Horn", a clear reference to Billy Strayhorn, but then moving outside, almost naturally, without effort, then reuniting in a unison theme to the enthusiasm of the live audience.
But what comes before is less easy to pigeonhole. Yes, there are moments of pure minimalism, like in the opening track, when sparse and subtle sounds create an eery atmosphere built around silence, but then suddenly a quiet theme arises, out of nothing, disappears again for further quiet development, then restless interaction, somewhat chaotic, until the theme again grows out of the ongoing agitation, moving into full visibility, then disappears again in strange fluttering and ruffling of alto and drums, in the aptly titled "Gesang der Nacht" (Singing of the Night).
"Weisser Zwerg" is a slowly paced avant-garde piece, lightly textured at first, with the sax barely audible taking the lead voice, then density increases slightly when suddenly all instruments are heard together, a rare occurence on this album, then fade away to quiet and eery piano by Friedli.
"Equilibre Tendu" in contrast is more post-boppish and expansive, in a kind of Coltrane mood, with all four instruments heard at all time, with the alto soaring above the tight rhythm section.
The quartet meanders between inside and outside playing with dexterity and a natural sense of spontaneity that is indeed refreshing and light-footed, and like the Convergence Quartet's "Slow and Steady", they offer the perfect line of eclectic jazz modernism, with a rare sensitive and elegant quality in the overall sound.
Nothing ground-breaking, but just beautiful and inventive.