Saturday, January 23, 2016
Simon Rose & Stefan Schultze - The Ten Thousand Things (Red Toucan, 2015) ****½
Baritone and alto saxophonist Simon Rose and pianist Stefan Schultze met in 2013 in Berlin, and even if the first came from the free improv scene and the second from a more standard jazz background, their collaboration on this album makes you wonder about these different perspectives because it all sounds so seamless and integrated.
On eleven improvisations these two musicians find a wonderful balance between ferocious destruction and sensitive construction, starting with their instruments, as the piano is prepared with all kinds of plastic sticks and bags, and Rose is a real fan of circular breathing, rhythmic tongue slapping, and other harder to define techniques, yet at the same time, and despite the obvious harshness, the music strikes a deep emotional chord, like a cry full of agony and pain, with vulnerability and even tenderness and intimacy. And that may explain the title, as "The Ten Thousand Things" is a buddhist expression of all the things that make up our world, and their musical reflection gives us this : a myriad of sounds and interactions that make us feel these 'ten thousand things', with all their qualities, and complexities and simplicities and gentleness, and so much more.
What I love about the album is that the two artists have a strong common vision and they go for it, all the way. There's nothing half-hearted here, or no compromising, no crowd-pleasing treats, but only authentic and creative expressivity, like life itself, hard and real like life itself.
It is one of those albums which take you over completely, and because of its emotional power, it has been a soothing album for me, and listening to it dozens and dozens of times, the raw sensitivity of the baritone, the bell-like sounds of the piano, the physical intimacy, the sometimes violent percussiveness, matched the emotional need of your humble servant, at moments when he felt he wanted to smash the things around him while at the same time needing some consolation and sympathetic sentiments. Apologies for the subjectivity, but there is no other way to approach this music : you love or you hate it. This guy loves it.