Click here to [close]

Monday, July 13, 2020

Ronny Graupes SPOOM - Bridge Ices Before Road (Shoebill, 2020) ****

By Martin Schray

In 2004 the then 25-year old German guitarist Ronny Graupe started his project SPOOM, a trio with drummer Christian Lillinger (20) and bassist Jonas Westergaard (28). Looking back, the band represented something like a new wave of European jazz. In the beginning they focused mainly on the Great American Songbook, but as time passed more and more original compositions were added to their repertoire. The result was their first release As They Are (Shoebill, 2012), followed by two albums on Pirouet - SPOOM in 2013 and The White Belt in 2016.

Now, 16 years after the founding of the band and following a three-year break of not releasing any new material, Bridge Ices Before Road is like a re-start for them, because after such a long time playing in a trio format, Graupe decided to extend the band to a quartet. Since August 2018, alto saxophonist Christian Weidner has augmented the combo, which adds new variations to SPOOM’s musical colour palette.

On the one hand, Bridge Ices Before Road is full of tradition (like its predecessors), but on the other hand, it bursts of experimentation that spans the musical generations - it lives at the vanguard of new jazz music. The compositions present less through-composed parts, and thus imply more open space for individual improvisation of the interpreting players, like on “Ped Xing“, which is reminiscent of early 1960s cool jazz à la Jimmy Giuffre. Characteristic are the melodic entanglements, saxophone and guitar often act in unison, while the bass counters these attacks with separate hook lines, like for example at the beginning of the opener “Launching ad 39b“. SPOOM’s sound is defined by the dense compositional structure of Graupe’s music and the interpretation of the intricate written material. At the same time the forms that emerge from the pieces are used for extensive improvisation. This approach is emblematic on this album, for example on the short “Sic Erat Scriptum“ or on the title track, on which Weidner’s rough contributions meet with Graupe’s catchy guitar lines at just the right, unexpected moment. The improvisations are always as smooth and elegant as calligraphy; yet it sounds like Graupe is literally signing these new ideas with his instrument, which can be heard on the melodic riffling of “Merge“, which explores some of the same dusky film noir allusions that SPOOM displayed on previous albums.

Bridge Ices Before Road is very recommendable, especially for listeners who like music at the intersection of modern jazz and freely improvised music.

The album is available as a CD and as a download. You can buy it here:

Watch them in the studio here: