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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baloni - Belleke (Clean Feed, 2014) ****

By Stefan Wood

Baloni is an improv trio comprised of Joachim Badenhorst (bass clarinet, clarinet & tenor sax, worked with Han Bennink and Tony Malaby), Frantz Loriot (viola, played with David Ware), and Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass, played with Frank Gratowski).  Belleke is their second album on clean feed, their debut Fremdenzimmer garnering accolades for their unique brand of music, part chamber jazz, part surreal improvisations inhabiting classical trappings.

"Belleke" opens the album with the clarinet and strings combining for a low volume and, evenly paced, like gliding across calm waters, but with the feeling of some tension.  "Building Nothing Out of Something" is where each instrument is pushed out of their familiar trappings; the clarinet squeaks like a rusty swing, the bass like an industrial machine being stressed with weight, and the viola a high pitched feedback wail.  Chamber industrial noise abstractions.  An outstanding track is "Feuertreppe," meaning Fire Escape Staircase.  The viola and bass bow and pluck from a slow simmer to a burning frenzy, deftly managing both high and low registers, before fading into the clarinet solo, where later joined by the strings in a Schoenberg like classical piece, before the three build up the tension, clarinet leading with all three in medium register, then fading into an almost minimal silence.

"Turning Inwards Like a Glove," is perhaps the centerpiece of the album, a soulful bass clarinet solo that is   then joined by a frenetic plucking of the double bass, with the viola bowing a little behind the two in a high register.  The strings provide the background for the bass clarinet to then gently float above, creating a very spiritually uplifting piece.  Tracks like "Heaving Hearts," "Casse Meditative," and "Snowflakes" all demonstrate the trio's ability to redefine the boundaries of how their instruments sound, in as of themselves and how they interact with each other.  The music never digresses nor is superfluous, the mostly sub eight minute works are succinct and clear.  "What Grows Beneath," the final track, alternates from free form blowing of the sax to minimal notes of the stringed instruments and back again, ending with the sax gently soloing over a soft toned but frenetic viola bowing.

Belleke is an excellent album of creative music making, defying convention and creating a unique sound that combines improvisations with classical sensibilities.  Recommended.

You can buy this album from Instantjazz