Click here to [close]

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Workers - Altbüron (Wide Ear Records, 2020) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

The Workers is a new Swiss, cross-generation, free-improv quartet. The eldest member is soprano sax player Urs Leimgruber Soprano Sax, known from his trio with pianist Jacques Demierre and double bass master Barre Phillips as well as his previous collaborations with sax players Steve Lacy and Joe McPhee and fellow double bass player Joëlle Léandre; in between are alto sax and flute player Omri Ziegele, who collaborated before with Leimgruber in the all- reeds Schweizer Holz Trio (Love Letters To The President, Intakt, 2008) and the leader of Where’s Africa band Flute (1959), Where’s Africa; and double bass player Christian Weber Bass, who collaborated before with Zielgele and his Tomorrow Trio and is known for his collaborative work pianist Aki Takakse, sax player Ellery Eskelin and turntablist, Joke Lanz; The youngest one is drummer Alex Huber, who recorded before with Leimgruber (Lightnings, Wide Ear, 2015), and is the co-founder of Wide Ear Records and the one who recorded, mixed, mastered and produced this debut album of The Workers at bau 4, Altbüron, Switzerland in October 2018.

These highly experienced and strong-minded musicians know the game of free improvisation inside out, from its constant quest to always take risks to its need for deep listening. The 43-minutes piece 'Altbüron' suggests that The Workers are not bound by a distinct improvisation strategy and all four musicians, individually and as a collective, let the music flow, almost naturally and according to its own liquid-kind of inner logic, but they also know how to steer it. This piece begins with an abstract, sound-oriented segment, but soon the profound and poetic conversational interplay of Leimgruber and Ziegele, including Ziegele’s spoken poetry asking the listeners to “Open the door” to the joint - musicians and audience alike - and adventurous journey of free-improvisation. Weber and Huber alternate between coloring imaginatively the nuanced conversations of Leimgruber and Ziegele and acting as the rough, quick-tempered and pushing-forward rhythmic center that abstracts and transforms the implied rhythmic patterns in the sax players playing.

“Nobody said it is is easy / You got to do it /Now”, Ziegele recites mid-piece about the essence of this spontaneous and collective process of music-making, and his flute playing adds Mediterranean folk motives to The Workers vocabulary. The open, supportive interplay leaves generous room for individual solos and emphasizes that the sum of these idiosyncratic musicians is larger than them playing apart. Eventually, when it sounds as if The Workers head towards a powerful and cathartic conclusion, the quartet opts for a surprising and eccentric detour that demands from all four musicians their most inventive palette of sounds. Then, The Workers work on a wild but playful and sometimes even noisy free dance but end this piece with a quiet and meditative coda. Ziegele asks the listener to pay attention to the “Beauty of the stars / The beauty of the mind / The beauty of the flower / We pass by / Without lifting your head”.

Waiting anxiously to see, smell and experience many blooming flowers in the follow-up album of the Workers.