Nik Bärtsch's Ronin — Llyria
(ECM 2178, 2010, CD)
The instrumentation for this highly regarded jazz quintet is soprano and alto saxophone and bass clarinet, piano, bass, drums, and percussion. Pianist Bärtsch is the adept leader and insightful composer of all seven songs. Reedsperson Sha has a beautiful tone and phrasing, and reminds us of many different saxophonists that we love, including Paul Desmond, Bennie Maupin, and Elton Dean. Bärtsch’s keyboard approach relies on ostinatos and syncopation to tell his compelling story. He never budges from the piano – no electronic keyboard sounds or Rhodes sounds here. At times, the acoustic keyboard is in service to the other percussion instruments, and then the piano dramatically re-asserts its place back into the foreground of the track. Bassist, percussionist, and drummer unite to form a seamless and highly convincing groove-net on pieces such as “Modul 52” and “Modul 47.” They seem capable of nearly every rhythmic style, from sweet brushes on the snare to strong strutting funk lines. Then, in direct contrast, they will disorient you sonically, lost in the black forest whirlpools of space on this disk. The music is open and subject to serene moments of beauty, as on “Modul 51.” People who enjoy Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Ranier Bruninghaus, “Vein Melter” by Herbie Hancock, Crimson Jazz Trio, The Bad Plus, Chick Corea in acoustic quartet mode, and/or any of Bill Bruford’s various Earthworks groups should make a point of hearing this recording.
Related artist(s): Nik Bärtsch
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