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Friday, November 25, 2022

Mikołaj Trzaska, Petr Vrba, Mark Tokar, Balázs Pándi — Malá Pardubická Vol. 4 (Gusstaff Records, 2022)

By Nick Ostrum

This quartet consists of musicians from Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ukraine, a potential conscious or unconscious survey of the former Eastern Bloc. Mikołaj Trzaska appears on various reeds, Petr Vrba on trumpet and electronics, and Balázs Pándi on drums. For his part, Ukrainian bassist Mark Tokar is currently defending Ukraine, as the notes so finely puts it, “changing his double bass for a rifle”. Given the current geopolitics of the region, maybe there was some prescient solidarity behind this aggregation.

That said, such speculations are hardly necessary to appreciating Malá Pardubická Vol. 4, recorded in the autumn of 2021. The gist: this is wonderful experimental music. Trzaska plays some controlled flourishes while Vrba huffs out raspberries, hushes, flutters and beeps (once he switches to electronics.) On much of this, Tokar’s playing is thick and viscous, a perfect complement to Pándi’s cluttery percussion. Vrba and especially Trzaska, meanwhile, add everything from the squeaky atmospherics to billowing streams of sound. Still, this is pulse-driven, rather than melodic or chordal music. All four musicians feed more off the herky-jerky rhythmicism than anything else. And that is to their credit. This is the kind of off-kilter free jazz that exists between the new music, non-idiomatic aestheticism and the melodicism and steady drive of so much of post-Coltrane, post-Coleman, post-Ayler music. It really stands apart in its concerted, for lack of a better term, clunkiness often balanced by Vrba’s atmospherics and sometimes by Tokar’s quieter passages of background (or backbone) wandering. In short, Malá Pardubická is a fine set of improvisations and an interesting twist on where experimental jazz-based music resides today.

Malá Pardubická Vol. 4 can be purchased directly from Gusstaff Records.