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Sunday, August 15, 2021

Silke Eberhard Trio – Being the Up and Down (Intakt Records, 2021) ****½

By Troy Dostert

Alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard has devoted so much of her career to celebrating the work of past jazz legends that it’s easy to overlook her own steadily growing, formidable catalog. Previous retrieval efforts covering Ornette Coleman with Aki Takase, or Charles Mingus with her I am Three ensemble, not to mention her numerous projects devoted to the music of Eric Dolphy through her Potsa Lotsa outfit, would seem to leave her very little time to cultivate her own aesthetic. But that’s not at all the case, as she’s continually made time for numerous side projects with other artists and, most importantly, several releases with her own trio. Beginning with 2008’s Being (Jazzwerkstatt), bassist Jan Roder and drummer Kay Lübke have teamed up periodically with Eberhard as a vehicle for her own compositions, utilizing a format that gives her a high degree of creative freedom as an improviser. Being the Up and Down, her second trio outing for Intakt after 2017’s The Being Inn, is a potent reminder of just how forceful Eberhard’s instrumental voice can be, and it’s also a delightful opportunity to hear her work with like-minded, sympathetic colleagues who truly complement her as equals.

Eberhard brings a feisty edge to her playing on cuts like “U11” and “Strudel,” where her rhythmic intensity and high-register facility are astonishing, especially in tandem with the lithe contributions of Roder and Lübke, who have an exceptional ability of responding nimbly to Eberhard’s sudden detours. This isn’t free jazz, as there’s a compositional structure to these pieces—but they’re remarkably labile nonetheless, and only a trio with this much shared experience can pull off the quick maneuverings needed to navigate music that can often be quite spontaneous and untethered. In terms of high-energy intensity, the highlight here is undoubtedly the first half of “Strudel,” where Eberhard plays like a woman possessed, with a torrent of ideas flowing almost unstoppably, as her counterparts somehow match her stamina and urgency while preventing everything from flying off the rails. But it’s not all fireworks; the last half of “Strudel” takes on a restrained, easy groove that steers away from the preceding mania via Eberhard’s more earthy, soulful sensibility.

One can hear the traces of Eberhard’s influences here and there; certainly the angular leaps and sing-song quality of “Von A Nach B” bring Dolphy to mind, and the volubility of Eberhard’s alto can invoke Coleman as well on the animated closer, “Yuki Neko.” But what’s just as impressive is the breadth of her compositions: a piece like “Zeitlupenbossa” allows the trio to delve into a mysterious realm with an oblique lyricism; and “Stray Around” uses a catchy Latin rhythm to generate its allure. Each of the record’s nine tracks has its own well-defined character, despite the ample freedom on display, and it’s a tribute to Eberhard’s devotion to her craft that the music is so cohesive and satisfying. It’s also evidence of the trio’s undeniable egalitarianism, as individual egos are really beside the point here. The power of the music is what matters, and this trio provides some terrific moments on this outstanding release.



Worth reminding Eberhhard's quartet with the free duo of Talibam! and Nikolaus Neuser on ESP from 2020. Listening to the vinyl, we discover another side of her playing//