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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Ken Vandermark/Matthias Muche/Thomas Lehn/Martin Blume - Soundbridges (Jazzwerkstatt, 2022)

By Martin Schray

Imagine the following scenario: A highly likeable German soccer club, whose team inspires mainly (but not only) by its playing style (but not only), augments themselves for one season with an outstanding international superstar (e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo or Erling Haaland). This is what it looks like when three top musicians of the German improv scene - drummer Martin Blume, who initiated this project, Matthias Muche on trombone and Thomas Lehn on synthesizer - invite Chicago legend Ken Vandermark as their turbo.

What you get is, a whole panopticon of what constitutes free jazz in 2022. Brutal, energetic, expressive outbursts; sounds that get lost like in a giant stalactite cave; moments of silence; a back-and-forth shuffling of tones. But what makes the band’s own sound so distinctive? The obvious and most interesting fact is that the bass in the rhythm section is replaced by an analogue synthesizer, which opens up completely different sonic possibilities. This is immediately evident in the short opener “Aperture“, when the pinpricks of the winds are mirrored by electronic gargle tones, or when Thomas Lehn blurs them with textures as in “Aspect Ration“. Here he sounds like a fierce wind whipping wet flags against a wall. What is more is the fact that the quartet excels in small gestures: The musicians harmonize with delicate ease, build tension without resorting to plain crescendos, slip from one unexpected note to another at the last second, find drama in silence and calm in chaos.

In some, rather quiet moments, this is reminiscent of Pauline Oliveiros’s Deep Listening Band, then again of sounds on a Formula 1 race track or a fairground, especially when Muche and Vandermark exchange wild blows, as at the end of "The Thirty-Nine Steps“.

Again, Soundbridges offers a lot: dynamics, wild free jazz, contemplative phases, sound excursions. Everything flows homogeneously into each other as if there were no dividing lines. Through sound bridges, in the most beautiful sense of the word.

Soundbridges is available as a CD. You can listen to it on the usual streaming devices (iMusic, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer …)


Paolo said...

What's best of a Martin Schray's review? I'd say probably a Martin Schray's review of a record you like.

Colin Green said...

You forgot to mention Marcus Rashford.

Martin Schray said...

After yesterday's match I could could have mentioned Marcus Rashford instead of Erling Haaland, Colin. That's true.
Thank you, Paolo. ;-)