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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Philipp Gropper’s Philm - Sun Ship (Whyplayjazz, 2017) ****

By Daniel Böker

The instruments lurch in. The movements wallow a little like they are on a ship. The most striking is probably the drums, however the bass, the piano, and the saxophone all come along most enjoyably in the same lurching fashion. The journey on the sun ship starts.

Maybe it is all wrong to try to listen the titles of the album into the music but Philip Gopper’s Phim’s third and latest album does have a real agreeable lurching outset that dissolves into a plain groove for a short moment after about 4 minutes before it starts fishtailing again.

In all of this there is plenty of room. The four instrumentalists, Philip Gropper (tenor sax), Elias Stemeseder (piano, synthesizer), Andreas Lang (bass) and Oliver Steidle (drums) leave a lot of space and time. The three pieces (each is divided into two or three sections) embrace the spaces in-between, making them as important as what is played. In the middle of the second piece, the first impulsive sequence appears, with the band coming to the fore for some (at least for a little while!) smooth sailing.

Maybe 'lurching' sounds negative but I enjoyed the journey with Philip Gropper’s Phlim. The whole album sounds as if the musicians have nothing to prove. No one overtakes the other. The musicians are obviously on a common journey. The second big piece 'J' starts with the saxophone and the bass. Most of the music, or even all of it, ascends from the waiting for each other. The whole interplay of the musicians grows more intense, especially when the drums no longer lurch but lead the way. In fact, Oliver Steidle is a great discovery for me. Additionally, the music of 'J' is carried by a rather melodious saxophone, that maneuvers safely through the accords and strains of the piano.

The last piece 'Who owns the world?' is started by the piano like an open question mark, and raises to the intense overall sound of all four instruments without losing sight of each other. At the end of the first piece the question of who owns the world still remains unanswered. I suppose I'm trying to interpret the titles of the pieces too much into the music itself (it’s my first review), but maybe the amiable reader agrees with me. All in all, the band never forgets to increase their musical journey with every piece by playing with each other and growing louder.

This album is a fine master piece, that allows the audience a lot of room to breathe and to discover; with and without the names of the individual pieces.