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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Nu Band - The Cosmological Constant (Not Two, 2015) ****

By Stef

Joy and sadness join hands on this album. "Joy" because that's the nature of this free bop band, with Joe Fonda on bass, Lou Grassi on drums, Mark Whitecage on alto saxophone and clarinet, and Thomas Heberer on trumpet. "Sadness" because one of the four leaders of the quartet, Roy Campbell Jr, is no longer among us. His contribution to the band, as a musician and as a composer was quite critical and that can be heard, especially because the band had been playing together for thirteen years when Roy Campbell passed away.

For Thomas Heberer to fill this gap is a true challenge, not only because of the human interaction with the rest of the band, but also because he musically comes from a different background, the European free improv scene, with the ICP Orchestra but also with his own music, which is more avant-garde than free jazz.

The Nu Band's music is characterised by a very open approach to composed themes, which set the scene, and then the band goes on a journey to explore the team, as you might expect from the genre. They sing, they swing, they dance, they bop, they can holler like the blues, but then they loosen up and go on a wonderful expansion of their own compositions. There are few bands like them, and I must say that Thomas Heberer does a great job here, feeling clearly part of the band, and not just a replacement, penning two compositions for the band, and without trying to emulate Roy Campbell, his sound has never been so soulful or bluesy as on this album.

The music is again phenomenal, a treat for the ears, and again delivered by all four musicians. But so are the compositions : the slow "Dark Dawn In Aurora" sounds like instant standard, the long "Time Table" is more abstract in nature and "5 O'Clock Follies" is a joyful swinging piece. And that's the great thing about this band, they play jazz, in all its varieties and subgenres and blend it into one coherent and highly enjoyable whole.

Listen to "Dark Dawn In Aurora", as recorded by your humble servant last year in Brussels.