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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Samuel Blaser Quartet - As The Sea (hatOLOGY, 2012) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

Samuel Blaser is a trombonist and composer who has been garnering well deserved attention in the avant garde jazz scene over the past couple of years and the NYC/Berlin based musician has recently released a great new album on hatOLOGY records.

As The Sea, like the sea, is a both a tranquil and violent entity, four musicians contributing to a wave of music that starts quietly and builds slowly and progressively more powerful.
It starts out almost inaudibly, a free improv based on textural rather than melodic developments. Slowly though, guitarist Marc Ducret's angular motifs generate the first real wave of energy - a mild lapping of distorted fragments that swells expertly. This is soon followed by Blaser's solo, which picking up from Ducret, introduces his own fragmentary lines until reaching, mere minutes before the end of the 19 minute song, a tight climax.

The second song, simply entitled 'As the Sea II', begins with a much different vibe. A strong rock beat laid out by percussionist Gerld Cleaver and a rather nice pulse on bass provided by Bänz Oester underpins the trombonist's urgent melodic lines. At times, Ducret's counter melody sounds Iike a second horn, as he shadows and interjects, then breaks into another imaginative and melodic solo, exploiting sometimes jarring chord fragments. While the guitar solo is burning and brilliant, Blaser not to be outdone, matches Ducret's energy. Locking in tight with the rhythm section, he delivers. We also get Cleaver's first solo stretch here as well.

Following the naming convention, III starts with Oester's percussive bowing on the bass and Ducret's deeply distorted guitar figures emerging and receding in the sonic murkiness. IV kicks off with the trombone, and a strong rhythm by Cleaver showcases some deft syncopations between the percussionist and the rest of the group. Moments of the tune swing, but never for too long, as the shifting feel and beat patterns compete for the listener's attention.

As the Sea sat in my review queue for a little too long. It's a fantastic album and a great introduction to both Samuel Blaser, who, judging by the strength of this album is a player with a lot more still to say. Also, the inside/outside guitar playing of Marc Ducret is an additional treat.