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Friday, May 18, 2018

Samuel Blaser with Marc Ducret & Peter Brunn – Taktlos Zürich 2017 (Hatology, 2018) ****½

Conventionally a jazz trio is generally seen as the minimum forces that would be needed to render the main characteristics and most important aspects of a tune. Rhythm, harmony and melody can be nailed down by a trio, providing at least the basic ingredients needed to make a good stab at the piece in question. However, the trio in it’s most traditional sense (say with a piano) and as a functional unit par excellence, has little resources left for additional harmonies, extra counter-melodies, colouration and ornamentation beyond what is idiomatic for the instrumentation.

Samuel Blaser’s trio on Taktlos Zurich 2017 eschews the more obvious musical elements, as much free improvisation does, in favour of such things as colouration, ornamentation as well as what appears to be an additional emphasis and concerted effort on space. At times the instrumentation of the trio is opened-up, such as on the very opening of the first piece ‘Stoppage’, where the trombone’s muted tones, a percussive bell-like sound, and guitar volume swells sound more in-keeping with a piece of Gagaku (ceremonial court music of Japan) that has been highly theatricalised. It’s not until about halfway through the twenty-four and a half minute track that a funky groove is introduced and the trio fall into a more traditional role of rhythm section and soloist, however, this is just an episode before the musical focus is shared around once more. The album contains five pieces across four separate tracks, three of them credited to Marc Ducret, one to Blaser, and the other, which is the second piece on the album, is based on a theme by the classical composer Stravinsky. This piece merges into another Ducret penned idea, ‘Useless Knowledge’, which continues to demonstrate the uncluttered vibe that hangs through all the music on the album, evoking a soliloquy from the trombone with just the most delicate colouration from Ducret’s guitar and Brunn’s minimal percussive ornamentations. Blaser’s ‘Jukebox’ starts with solo trombone, before being joined by sparse percussion, and guitar alternating between angular motives and fast unison passages with the trombone, at which point Ducret takes up the solo focus, again allowing for much musical space before Blaser brings in a different colour with a muted sound. The last piece, and second longest on the album, starts with a sustained violin-like timbre on the guitar, with the airy and spacious atmosphere reminiscent of the opening strains of King Crimson’s improvised piece ‘Providence’, before moving into another theatrical sounding form, not unlike a musical accompaniment to an imaginary Kabuki play, then settling on a riff which guitar and trombone both take turns to hold down, develop, and improvise over.

I’ve listened to this album a lot over the last several weeks, and it still has lots to offer, the intricate interplay between the musicians, doesn’t give up all it’s secrets lightly and still continues to give more as one attunes to the music’s and musicians’ level of interaction, which is meaningful with regard to communication and intent. There’s a lot of listening on this album between the musicians and that is clearly where the ‘musical space’ within this music comes from. Ideas seem to be offered with care, and a certain degree of ritual, before being carefully examined, utilised, developed and packaged with the greatest respect to each other’s playing. This is more than music; this is a musical ceremony of liturgical functioning embedded within a theatrical performance, where the emphasis on musical dialogue does the talking.


Richard said...

Looking forward to seeing this trio at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. I've seen Blaser before and he's great live.

I hope you don't mind me pointing out a typo but the drummer's name is spelled Bruun.

Chris said...

Oops! Yes your right Richard, thanks for pointing that out. 😊