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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Martin Speicher - Shapes & Shadows (Clean Feed, 2007) ****

Freejazzers, rejoice! Here is a sublime sax trio. Martin Speicher (sax and clarinet), Georg Wolf (bass) and Lou Grassi (drums), bring some top level free improvization. I only knew Grassi from his great Avanti Galoppi album, and the other two musicians are unknown to me, and that's unfortunate, because what they bring on this album is really very strong. The three musicians listen well and carefully to each other, they search for new expressive power, and they find it, bringing lots of variation, even within the same piece, sometimes intense and forward moving, then slow, sensitive, melancholic. Speicher has a warm tone, even in the most hard-blowing moments, Wolf offers nice telepathic interaction, and Lou Grassi keeps propulsing the band forward with excellent drum work. The album starts very promising with "Please, Confirm", in a lightly dancing mode with loose tones, which evolves into a high and sustained powerplay, just to end with reference to the beginning. "Le Star" brings slow searching sounds, with Speicher looking for the high notes of his sax, eery, sad and powerful. "Claire's Net" begins dissonant and abstract, with Speicher on bass clarinet and Wolf on arco bass, and although it would be too much to say that something like a melody is created, it is a wonderful experience to notice how out of this loose cluster of notes a musical unity evolves which is hard to define, yet which is unmistakably there. And that just characterizes the whole album. Strong discipline and self-control, together with a common focus on exploration in the creation of their musical vision permeate all tracks, and the result is more than worth listening to. The title song brings an excellent close to the album, with Speicher again on bass clarinet, and it is without a doubt the highlight of the album, ending in sad howling tones, the likes of which you will not have heard before. Don't expect fixed melodies or rhythms, but what you get is a creative, intense and impactful modern jazz.

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