Monday, November 16, 2015

Karl Berger & Kirk Knuffke - Moon (Double Review)

Karl Berger & Kirk Knuffke - Moon (NoBusiness, 2015) ***

By Stefan Wood

Karl Berger and Kirk Knuffke's collaborative double CD effort, Moon, is a contemplative album of moody and thoughtful duets, trumpet and vibes (or on occasion, piano), mostly low key, using silence as their third partner in making the music. It is a result of a newly made friendship, formed while working in different groups for a tribute concert for Ed Blackwell.

The music has the trumpet and vibes at times in close pairing, Knuffke's trumpet in a muted medium register while the vibes occupies a natural high tone. At other moments they play off of one another, quietly sketching intricate textures, almost abstract ballads. While this may seem intriguing, that there are two discs of this mode of playing may test some listener's patience. There is a sameness to many of the tracks, especially on the first disc. What breaks it, thankfully, is a wonderfully upbeat and boppish "This is What We're Thinking," a duet of trumpet and harmonica, and the final track on the first disc, "Travel East," which has a Thelonious Monk like devilishness to it, a wicked theme that is created, then broken down and extrapolated by each instrument. The second disc has Berger playing more piano than vibes, which changes the playing dynamics slightly, as Knuffke stretches out a little more in his improvisations while Berger maintains a percussive grounding. It also intensifies the dreaminess to the sound, as in the excellent "Terrace and Trees." 

Make no mistake -- Moon is a very low key album, but full of calm, sonic flavors that engage an attentive listener. While I think the album would have been better as just a single disc, Moon showcases the talents of two artists from different generations in an intelligent and very creative musical discussion.

Karl Berger & Kirk Knuffke - Moon (NoBusiness, 2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

I agree with my colleague Stefan's review, Moon is an intelligent and creative musical discussion, however, for me it is the quietness of the album that I find absolutely absorbing.

Maybe it is my state of mind, I am sitting here at my computer, close to midnight, finishing up some projects, I've had a glass of wine, and somehow, despite the din of the day and damage it wreaks, I am calm, and this recording has been playing in my iTunes for a while now ... its sumptuous space acting like a cradle for the thoughts that have leaked from my head.

Throughout the recording Knuffke's tone is spot on, his cornet has an edge to it that provides an excellent contrast to the softness. Berger, whether on piano or vibes, provides splashes of sound, hints of chords, fragments of melodies to give the cornet somewhere to go. Neither musician overtly leads, perhaps somehow they are both following, reaching a destination that they both eventually had in mind. I am not sure how much is composed and how much is free improvisation, but it hardly matters. The fluidity and confidence of these players, secure in their abilities and open in their communication, create a quiet delight on Moon.


Martin Schray said...

While I agree that one disc might have been enough, Stefan, I am rather on Paul's side as to the music. The abstract pieces lack the atmosphere that is wonderfully created by the slow and meditative ones. It's especially great to hear 80-year-old German jazz legend Karl Berger again. I've been listening very often to this album during the last months.

Antonio said...

Martin, since you've mentioned Karl Berger: I wholeheartedly recommend the duo record that he did with Ivo Perelman last year. It's called "Reverie" and it's magnificent.

Honkermann said...

Just a minor fact check -- I believe Knuffke plays cornet, not trumpet.

Martin Schray said...

I wasn't aware of this one, Antonio. Thanks for the recommendation. I trust you on that and will check it out.

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