Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nik Bartsch’s Ronin - Live (ECM, 2012)

Nik Bartsch’s Ronin (translation: a samurai with no lord or master) has carved out a very interesting place in the jazz world over the past several years with albums on ECM Records. Their slow building bubbling and melodic music draws from a variety of sources including rock and pop, world music and of course jazz. The results are quite cinematic, and would in fact make the perfect accompaniment to an edgy independent film. The group consists of Nik Bartsch on piano, Sha on bass clarinets and alto saxophone, Bjorn Meyer or Thomy Jordi on bass, Kaspar Rast on, drums and Andi Pupatoon percussion. Broken down into modules instead of songs, the music can be quite dynamic as shown on “Modul 22” where a repetitive piano notion suddenly bursts into activity with bass and drums laying down a funky beat and bass clarinet bubbling beneath. The music ebbs and flows, developing hypnotic features as well as nearly hallucinatory sound worlds. Tension and release is a big part of the musical presentation here with the group setting up seemingly simple patterns only to embroider them and make them more complicated as their improvisations develop. “Modul 45” develops a delicate almost forlorn feel with bass and probing piano rippling through the silence. Peals of saxophone rupture forth keeping the music unpredictable, developing from  a minimalist setting through waves of stronger sound. The music is focused and thoughtful and cerebral, the group is very patient waiting for any payoff that might result from  a particular performance. This builds anticipation for the moments when the band does break free and proceeds to make them all the more thrilling. Live -

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