Gropper, Graupe, Lillinger - Riot (WhyPlayJazz, 2016) ****
This isn't a debut - Berlin based saxophonist Philipp Gropper, guitarist Ronny Graupe and drummer Christian Lillinger have been sufficiently busy as Hyperactive Kid for well over a decade. They released a few albums on Jazzwerkstatt, and now as it seems that label is winding down a bit, the trio has hooked up with WhyPlayJazz, releasing a live album celebrating their first 10 years together (10 Year Anniversary Live, 2015), and have taken the opportunity to shed the old name. Their new release, Riot, is a texture rich album rife with exploratory electronic sounds, abstract rhythms, wrapped in the musical ease that a long time association can bring.
The opening track's title 'Being Dark is Easy' may as well refer to how naturally the spacious ambience of the night slowly passes until the melodic dawn. Once awake, the group stretches out its arms and embraces the new day. The musicians bring a range of approaches - the guitar is often minimal, offering judiciously placed single notes or chiming chord fragments, and sometimes flat out rocking. The sax, possible the most prominent of the voices, switches between staccato lines and flowing melodies, weaving between the drums and guitar. Of course, Lillinger is more than just the glue that holds the group together, providing pulse and texture, and injecting a lot of personality into the music. The longer tracks are interspersed with short sound exploration - like the 10 second clatter of 'Repeat!' and the minute and a half electric crinkle of 'Demons'. A great listen! - Paul Acquaro
Themroc 3 (WhyPlayJazz, 2016) ****
The songs have elements of humor and reference to more traditional and folk music. Also, as melodic and entertaining as the winds are, special mention of drummer Griener is warranted - he is as much a melodicist as a percussionist, his work on 'Jippi Brown’s 18th Birthday' stands out. By the third track, 'Marsch' it seems like the group is establishing itself in the free-jazz/avant-traditional of the great Zentralquartett. - Paul Acquaro
Punkt 3 - Ordnung Herrscht (Clean Feed, 2016) ****
Zur Schönen Aussicht -Willkommen Zuhause (Whyplayjazz, 2016) ****
The group is saxophonist Paul Berberich, guitarist Joachim Wespel, and drummer Florian Lauer, all new names to me, and while the line up is similar to Gropper, Graupe, Lillinger, the music takes a different path. Whereas Gropper, et.al, really dig into the textures, Zur Schönen Aussicht are more straight ahead, melding choppy melodies, hints of modern jazz, and a little prog-rock into the mix (tell me 'Wir mit wem?' doesn't have a hint of 90125 in its DNA). There are moments, like in the track 'Kritische Masse' that I am reminded of the music of the Mary Halvorson Trio's album Dragon's Head - it has that same lean, angular, irregular, and accessible approach.
From the Ornette Coleman inspired riff on the opener 'Schwingen ohne Club', to the emotive squall and dramatic climax of 'Phlegma und Enge', and finally the woozy drone and gently unfolding melody of 'Herbstlichst', there is a lot to hear, here!