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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Angelika Niescier - The Berlin Concert (Intakt, 2018) ****½

By Lee Rice Epstein

It’s hard to say which classic live albums Angelika Niescier’s The Berlin Concert most closely resembles, but I find myself slotting it alongside Ornette Coleman’s Town Hall 1962 andAt the “Golden Circle” sets, Anthony Braxton’s Montreux/Berlin and Dortmund (Quartet) sets, and Steve Lacy's Capers. Recorded live at the Berlin Jazzfest, where she was awarded the Albert-Mangelsdorff-Preis (German Jazz Award) , The Berlin Concert is a great snapshot of Niescier’s vivid creative voice. Balancing tenderness and vibrancy with ease, this live album underscores why she is one of the foremost players today.

Like her NYC Five album with Florian Weber and Ralph Alessi, this album features the rhythm section of Tyshawn Sorey and Christopher Tordini. Both are masterful players, adaptive and sensitive to the setting of each performance, and Tordini’s been at the heart of Sorey’s piano trio work for years. All three have played together for about a decade, and the ease with which they communicate is on full display.

“Kundry” features a brief melody that’s refracted and revisited over the course of the trio’s 15-minute performance. Niescier effortlessly guides the group through three areas of improvisation, each one highlighting a particular member of the group. It’s a nice introduction to the members of the trio, giving each an opportunity to shine in relation to each other. In the melody’s final recurrence, Sorey’s snare cracks inspire Niescier to lightly amend the line with a minor tonal shift. It’s a nimble, unexpected turn that highlights just how responsive these players are to one another.

“Like Sheep, Looking Up” opens with Niescier and Tordini duetting on sax and arco, setting the tone for an evocative meditation. Sorey ably carries the group into a somewhat melancholic section, where Tordini brings a Gary Peacock-like feel to the trio’s open improvisation. The overall effect is a group dance-like abstract expression. “5.8” showcases Niescier’s incredible range as both a composer and improviser. The melody combines hints of Lacy and Braxton, mixing rapidly moving lines with sudden leaps and pivots. Sorey lays down a bouncing rhythm that plays off Tordini’s restless bass. The trio slides into a jittery, rattling improvisation, as Sorey opens with a crashing section that drives Niescier to some fantastic runs. Their energy is wild, coalescing in a rapid restatement of the theme. All three plunge straight into “The Surge,” both the shortest and dizziest song on the album. Here, the trio is in nonstop motion, with Niescier laying everything on the line in a near-breathless performance. The track, and album, ends with a full minute of applause, the crowd’s hollers an outpouring of joy and excitement. The energy is infectious, even a full year later, where sitting in my living room, half a world away from the recording’s setting.

Available via Bandcamp:


Captain Hate said...

Thanks for making me aware of this and putting it in the same league as some other classic small group recordings. Man does this smoke!