Thursday, March 31, 2022

Dell Lillinger Westergaard & Maneri - Monuments (edition niehler werft, 2022) ****

By Martin Schray

DLW is a music collective consisting of Christopher Dell (vibraphone), Christian Lillinger (drums) and Jonas Westergaard (bass), which likes to augment itself with another musician. In other words: it works as a plug-in structure creating space for guests, who bring their specific character of playing into the band’s sound - as the promotional text puts it. Among others these have been John Tchicai (saxophone), Evan Parker (saxophone), Tamara Stefanovich (piano) and Johannes Brecht (electronics). For Monuments they chose the American viola virtuoso Mat Maneri, with whom they have collaborated for several years. Despite the different sound colour Maneri adds here, the most important characteristic of DLW’s music is also highlighted here: the field of conflicts of a given compositional precise framework, which presupposes their joint playing, and the complete freedom of improvisation. Form and substance, structure and content, concreteness and abstraction.

The result is that the music on Monuments is like a restless sea, whose waves swell up and down, an uncertain expanse that is turbulent and calm at the same time. For us listeners this means that we are hardly able to escape the intensity of the playing. Musical cornerstones are purposefully set, like buoys they serve as orientation. The music shows great attention to detail, which in turn forms an exciting whole. In “Monument 13“, a central piece, Dell’s chords on the vibraphone resemble pure heavy metal, organised like blocks against the wild lines of Mat Maneri’s viola. When Dell breaks up these chords into runs, the music fizzles like a henhouse invaded by a fox - nervous, mad, scurrying. Lillinger’s ultra-brutally fast drumming, which Dell then rivals, meets Westergaard’s stoic bass and Maneri’s tones at the threshold of pain.

Seven longer pieces, “Monuments", make the core of the album. Around them miniatures are grouped, so-called “Voids“, which dispense with everything incidental. They’re stripped to the bare, which means that repetitions, patterns, grooves and sound structures become recognizable. They allow you a glimpse to the work itself, the permanent rehearsals, performance strategies and finally even the mastering. The “Voids“ are the icing on the cake, like the 35 seconds in “Void 6“ with their cymbal crescendo and the viola notes tugging at the nerves, or the 41-second “Void 7“ dominated by Lillinger’s barrage, which prepare the listener for the calm, concluding “Monuments 16“. My favourite are the 77 seconds of “Void 4“, which culminate in an alienation of the drums towards the end that seems almost ghostly.

A bit earlier this year, it was announced that Christopher Dell will receive the Hessian Jazz Award 2022. The jury justified this by saying that he “is an exceptional musician (who) allows a unique complexity to emerge in the music with his analytical eye and structural way of thinking.“ They also praised his “expressive virtuosity and (his) fine feeling for the band sound“, saying that with him “rhythmic abstraction and the art of perfect harmonic phrasing are sometimes only mallet strokes apart.“ In particular, the importance of his Dell/Lillinger/Westergaard trio was mentioned. There is nothing to add to this.

Monuments is the second recording in the new retroactive series of Dell’s label edition niehler werft (enw). In 2015 the session was engineered at the Berlin Funkhaus-Studios, it was mastered in 2021.

Monumens is available on vinyl, CD and as a download. The vinyl version only contains 8 of the 15 tracks.

You can order the album here:

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