By Paul Acquaro
Berlin guitarist Ronny Graupe's The Call opens with a bass and drum line that had me thinking of Dave Holland's opening on Gateway's 'Back Woods Song' - the moment is fleeting but it set my expectations high. Soon, the combination of vibraphone and guitar enter, setting the music off in a different direction entirely, ending the comparison but more than meeting my expectations.
Graupe's drizzle of notes turns into a cascade, with parts of the melodic lines doubled up by Dominik Bukowski's vibraphone. The piece settles into a syncopated exchange with bassist Phil Donkin and drummer Oliver Steidle and then quickly segues to the next tune, whose plaible rhythmic foundation opens ups the field for a enveloping solo from Graupe. By the time they reach the third track, 'Determination - There Are Only a Few' the group the momentum is strong and the ideas are flowing.
The Call is actually comprised of two suites - the one being described above, 'Determination,' and then later, 'The Call,' whose opening 'Enter' begins exploratorily but slowly brings itself to an intense peak, followed by number of knotty, melodic tunes. Each of the album's 15 tracks are short, averaging about three minutes each, and they are tied together thematically, flowing seamlessly - or purposely not - together. Their length compresses the time, forcing the musicians to focus on the most salient parts in order to fit -- whether it is Graupe's flowing lines, Bukowski's choice chords, Donkin's sturdy basslines, or Steidles' colorful textures -- it all fits smartly together. The Call is modern and brainy, sleek but not smooth, digestible but requiring a good chew.