Friday, May 04, 2018

Angelika Niescier - The Berlin Concert (Intakt Records, 2018)

Polish born saxophonist Angelika Niescier was awarded the 2017 German Jazz Prize, as "one of the most interesting musicians on the European jazz scene." This level of praise is well deserved considering the playing on this album which has her in the august company of Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Chris Tordini on bass, presenting a concert took place after she received the award. The three musicians create a unique sound that emerges from their musical curiosity and attention to detail. "Kundry" opens the album in fine fashion with bright and choppy saxophone leading the trio into a brisk and exciting performance. The instruments are very well integrated and the trio works fluidly as a team with igneous streams of saxophone porting forth matched by bursts of percussion and thick, powerful bass playing. Their collective improvisation is bracing and powerful, with raw exclamations met by sharp interplay, embracing new challenges presented by the music, weaving inside and outside, between form and freedom. The group follows with "Like Sheep, Looking Up" where they have an interesting melody to begin with, which is then developed in the direction of a free form exploration. The playing is intricate and shows real depth, with the bass and drums developing a complex and fascinating rhythm that Niescier can engage with or soar over at will, allowing the the drama of the music to unfold in a natural and organic manner. On stage the group has clearly developed a very strong rapport, with intuitively knowledge about how the improvisation should proceed, as dark toned and gritty saxophone meeting stoic bass and kinetic percussion in an impressive approach. There is a quiet and thoughtful bass solo, before the group returns to the original melody to conclude. "5.8" moves into more abstract territory with subtle bowed bass and saxophone layering sounds and building patterns in the air with soft percussion folding into the mixture. The music is very free and  unrestricted, drifting with brushed percussion and searching saxophone showing also endlessly curiosity about how music and open space can coexist. The group returns to a collective uptempo setting for "The Surge" as colorful saxophone comes bursting forth with ripe bass and drums in support. This is a very fast and exciting performance, a long uptempo collective improvisation that shows the group at their best. The leader's saxophone playing is thrilling, as she romps through the music with unrestrained joy, and the improvisation is unpredictable and rhythmically dexterous as the performance develops in a freewheeling formation, with ample solo space for bass and drums which allows the musicians to make dynamic adjustments on the fly. The Berlin Concert - amazon.com

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