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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fabric Trio - Murmurs (No Business, 2013) ****½

By Martin Schray

I guess we all know this. You buy a new record/CD and as soon as you are at home you put it on your stereo. You listen to it for the first time and you think: Okay, strong, a good album. Then you listen to it again and again and the more often you listen to it the better it gets. You discover hidden qualities, surprising and interesting details, you recognize what a treat it is. Fabric Trio’s “Murmurs” is exactly such an album.

The A-side of the record presents the Berlin-based band consisting of Frank Paul Schubert (alto and soprano saxophone), Mike Majkowski (bass) and Yorgos Dimitradis (drums) as an almost classical sax trio in the tradition of Ornette Coleman’s legendary “Golden Circle” band with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett because like them the trio acts almost independently without dissolving the group context. The music does not overwhelm the listener, it displays a natural, lyrical and elegant flow.

In “Jaw”, the first track, Schubert plays bright, guttural and coherent lines, exciting and full of contrasts, while bass and drums accompany him with unconventional, monotonous runs and bumpy beats. The band pushes this concept in “The Salt of Pleasure”, a track that reminds of the more introspective pieces of The Thing, while “Hook” and “Bristles” make you think of Coleman again. So far this would be a good album but there would be nothing special about it either. This radically changes on the flipside.
Hardly does the trio use conventional and classical structures of playing, alienation and the shaping of silence are the dominant stylistic devices. While Schubert plays melancholic blues lines in “Decomposer”, a track whose beginning is even right at the threshold of pain, bass and drums leave their supportive function and create a melodic, rhythmic and harmonic world of their own, which leads to a new form of communication compared to the first tracks. It seems as if the musicians were trying to discover the sounds of their instruments anew.

Especially “Acorn/Tongue”, the longest and most exciting composition of the album, tries to re-define sound.  The musicians play undefined overtones, Schubert’s sax sounds like a dying dragon, fatally wounded, exhaling steam from huge nostrils, weary, resigned, doomed. The drum beats come down on the creature like hailstones, and the bass accompanies this drama playing extremely high and low registers or it remains hammering percussive chords. The whole track can be considered as a suite of soundscapes, sound and silence are equal elements in the musical structure of the composition itself, with silence having become a medium to create structural tension and tonal concentration.

As I said in the beginning: “Murmurs” is an unusual, magnificent and captivating album, the deeper you listen to it, the more it grows.

Murmurs” is limited to 300 copies only and you can buy it from the label where you can also listen to short snippets of “Jaw” and “Decomposer”.

You can find a copy at


Paolo said...

Here is the prophecy my very good friend Janus (from the renowned duo Janus & Karl) asks me to forward you all:
Mike Majkowski is the next "big thing" to follow of the free jazz scene...

Colin Green said...

This is a great album, but rather than Ornette’s 60s trio, I was more put in mind of trios that perform at slow to medium tempos, with lots of space, something of a contrast to the more high-octane style often associated with free jazz. Perhaps the earliest example was the great Triptykon trio (Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Edward Vesala) which sadly only recorded one album:

In the US, the Air trio (Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins, Steve McCall) was doing something similar:

Both these trios have been enormously influential, and I hear a similar restrained intensity in the Fabric Trio.

Martin Schray said...

Interesting comparison, Colin. Sometimes I forget what great music Garbarek is able to play (although - at least to me - he hardly does that nowadays). Especially Ed Vesala's drumming seems to have been very influential for Dimitradis. As to Air I would say that McCall and Hopkins are "funkier" than the rhythm group here but there are similarities as well. Both trios are absolutely great and important, no question. I must admit that I haven't been familiar with Majkowski so far but I guess this will change We will see if Paolo is right and I won't bet against him.

Colin Green said...

McCall and Hopkins are less “funky” on other pieces, particularly on the early Air albums, but there was a limited selection on YouTube. My point was really about tempo, space and air.

Although not perhaps at the same level, Garbarek’s subsequent trio with Miroslav Vitous and Pete Erskine was very good. I caught them on their 1993 tour – to promote the album “Star” – and there was lots of improvisation. Erskine told me that they had played quite a lot of that in the studio, but Garbarek felt it was too much like how he used to play. In concert, it was some of their best material. You can get a good idea here:

And they did a great version of “The Music from my People”, which would have me nodding along in my car.

Colin Green said...

Sorry, “The Music from my People” link: