Jan 28 2013
This album is a flower that just keeps on blooming. On Triumph, drummer Ferenc Nemeth plants several motifs within the first couple songs, then builds on them in subsequent tracks while adding new motifs, extrapolations of existing ones, and repetitions of the originals. The result is an album that is perpetually revealing itself by offering a series of windows to its soul.
Your album personnel: Ferenc Nemeth (drums), Joshua Redman (tenor & soprano sax), Kenny Werner (piano, Rhodes), Lionel Loueke (guitar, vocals), and guests: Barabara Togander (vocals), Juampi di Leone (flute), Carlos Michelini (clarinet), Martin Pantyrer (bass clarinet, baritone sax), Richard Nant (trumpet, flugelhorn), and Maria Noel Luzardo (bassoon).
Lionel Loueke is the best place to start talking about this album. With his truly original sound that presents an alluring blend of West African folk and forward-thinking modern Jazz guitar, Loueke has collaborated with Nemeth plenty before. And Hungarian-born Nemeth has had no difficulty applying his own background and influences to a wide variety of projects, and seems to have a keen affinity for guitar players, having collaborated with a disparate group including names like John Abercrombie, Federico Casagrande, Francisco Pais, and Ben Monder… artists who, like Loueke, bring a singular sound to the table. But the guitarist Nemeth has most often worked with is Loueke, and their symbiosis is put on display right from the start.
Following an opening interlude that simmers actively with many suggestions of motifs, the bubbles begin to pop off the surface with title-track “Surface.” What begins as a murmur of post-bop moodiness slips right into an suit more fit for the mainstream crowd. Chipper jaunty statements molded from the kind of warm smile and firm handshake crafted to appeal to the largest possible segment are anchored by saxophonist Redman, who has made a career out of deftly shaping tricky constructions into palatable shapes.
But it doesn’t stop there. Loueke’s Beninese folk sound launches right off Redman’s contemporary motif, and the two are joined at the hip, fusing simultaneous sounds that should come off as disjointed but for Nemeth keeping them from veering off from one another.
This happens several times throughout this album, though with different sounds, different constructs. Often one section of a song will sound markedly different from the section which proceeded it, yet not so different that the relationship goes unnoticed… as if the clothes worn remain the same even if the musician donning it has changed.
The album has several interludes that tie various album tracks together, providing Nemeth with yet another binding tool to allow everything to coalesce into a satisfying whole. Srong folk interludes transition right into a variety of Bop varietals, like on track “Purpose,” which allows Werner a chance to unfurl his wings on piano.
Nemeth brings in a variety of guests, the most effective being the inclusion of woodwinds (conducted and arranged by Nicolas Sorin). Having the moody burn of bassoon, bass clarinet and baritone sax enter into the frame, like on the terrific “Hope,” elicits thrilling subtleties from music that is already a series of textural fireworks.
On the theme of fireworks, the second half of the album witnesses the blooming of all the seeds Nemeth planted in the first half of the album. For instance, an explosive duo of drums and guitar lead into the ballad “Longing,” which superimposes folk and modern jazz flairs atop a standard ballad structure. And from that resting place, the album leapfrogs into a modern bop interlude, whose hyperactivity is so deliciously counteracted by the lovely, low, calming hum of woodwinds. And the best is yet to come.
An interlude of an elegant piano solo slips into “Sorrow and Wishful Thinking,” which begins by backing Loueke’s lullaby guitar and vocals with a dirge-like rhythmic partnership. The folk lullaby aspect of the song surges ahead, and briefly becomes the face of the song until it transforms yet again, this time into a contemplative post-bop tune that grows increasingly agitated as the song progresses to its grand finale.
It’s yet more of the shadowplay of texture and contrast, of perpetual revelations, that makes this such a winning recording.
The album is Self-Produced, released on Nemeth’s Dreamers Collective Records label.
Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.
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