Dec 13 2013
Quite often I run into albums that fit into a general category of “close, not quite, but so very glad you tried.” The general tenor of these albums is that they have their flaws, but they come as the result of creative risk taking. I love this. I encourage it. I often write of such albums, just by way of highlighting the magnificent axis where intelligence and imagination crash together in beautiful symbiosis.
One such album that I frequently return to is Design Your Future, by the Lucien Dubuis Trio & The Spacetet. There is a playfulness to this album, even as it attempts to barrel over you. The album possesses a wild abandon, a forward momentum that sends it crashing through walls as it heads off to the horizon of the final note.
Your album personnel: Lucien Dubuis (alto sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Roman Nowka (bass, guitar), Lionel Friedli (drums), Estelle Beiner (violin), Isabelle Gottraux (viola), Regula Schwab (violin), and Barbara Gasser (cello).
A saxophone trio at its heart, but the addition of a string quartet adds a fascinating dimension to this album that sounds way more European free jazz than it does chamber jazz. Sometimes, like on album opener “Albumblatt Für Herrn Schprögel,” the strings add a warmth that could melt the iciest saxophone skronks. And then there are times, like on “Pàrl,” when the strings dramatically enhance the emotional punch already thrown with considerable force when Dubuis tears into a melody on alto sax. And other times, like on the 4-part “Suite En Eb,” when the strings accentuate the asymmetry of the moving parts, and though everyone sounds to be moving in the same direction, there is an overpowering sensation of wild kinetic energy unbounded by limits or borders.
Dubuis brings a ferocity to the music, regardless of which reed instrument he employs. But on alto sax, he brings a fuller sound, whereas on clarinets, he expresses himself lithely, letting strings of notes trail off like a wisp of smoke. On drums, Friedli is the propulsive element, and leads the charge from behind… letting his counterparts run out front, and then following in their wake and using his drums to illustrate the context within which all the craziness occurs.
Nowka in the wildcard of this unit. He isn’t relegated to any one role, and doesn’t stay in the same place long enough to develop a generality. Sometimes he’s providing the sweat equity on a thick danceable groove, other times he’s twanging out a boozy accompaniment, and yet other times, he’s lending a hand rhythmically to the drums, melodically to strings & clarinet. He is as much responsible as any ensemble member for the album’s chameleon nature, switching from wild frenzied jazz to wild frenzied rock ‘n roll, and best of all, to those moments when the two come together and create something that’s high-energy and strangely sublime.
Fun, creative music. It is easy to imagine it performed with a smile.
Released on Unit Records.
Jazz from Switzerland.