Recapping the Best of 2011: Tied & Tickled Trio – “La Place Demon”


Bringing together a veteran jazzer from the bop era, an up-and-coming jazzer who embraces the modern use of effects, and a few members of electronica band The Notwist, well, it’s not gonna result in a conventional jazz album.  Add to the mix a variety of string instruments and horns, and the risk is that things get really messy.  It’s a happy surprise that Tied & Tickled Trio‘s La Place Demon is not only a crisp musical experiment, but that it has lots to offer fans of the schools of music above.

Your album personnel: Billy Hart (drums), Carl Oesterhelt (dulcimer, xylophone, percussion), Markus Acher (saz, harmonium, percussion), Jorg Widmoser (violin), Andreas Höricht (viola), Johannes Enders (flute, tenor saxophone), Stefan Schreiber (bass clarinet), Micha Acher (trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonium), Gerhard Gschlobl (trombone), Karl Ivar Refseth (vibraphone), Christoph Brandner (percussion), and Andreas Gerth (electronics).

This outfit originally began as a duo who only performed with drums and were heavy into polyrhythms.  They added some members who were into the dub and electronica scenes.  Later, more members joined the outfit, and they brought their jazz backgrounds into the mix.  They now have a trio even though there’s way more than three members in the collective, and the odd soup that is their music is unclassifiable yet has a wide array of flavors that miraculously work in cohesion, resulting in stunningly lovely albums like La Place Demon.

La Place Demon opens with a drum solo by veteran bopper Billy Hart.  It starts off with eccentric tempos that suddenly break off into a groove. A brief note of xylophone, then horns and harmonium and electronics enter humming, creating a thin sheaf of warm fuzz.  It builds to a pitch, then drops off, and only Hart’s drums remain.  This is only the intro.

The second track “Three Doors Pt. 1” (embedded above) begins with the insect buzz of electronics and the sharp cut of strings, an occasional water drip of electronics breaking through.  Hart’s drums gurgle in the background, grow more imminent. Horns raise up with bursts of ascending notes, flute cuts in, and then Hart sets a groove that moves everybody forward without interrupting their own flow.  He isn’t setting the pace so much as corralling the ensemble and directing it forward.  Flute re-enters, soaring over the string section, which is beginning to make itself known. Sax and horn section grows stronger.  The feeling of the song actually gets lighter as more voices join the chorus.  The groove is a cool stroll down Grand Avenue.  But the horns and sax intensity builds, becoming more and more ferocious, until it reaches a fever pitch, and the tune suddenly ends.

“Calaca” has an odd sway and swing to it, and the long hazy notes leave the tune feeling like an extended interlude into “Violent Collaborations Pt. 1,” which begins as a spooky bit of electronic muttering and haunting distant sounds, but develops into free jazz hellfire.

“Three Doors Pt. 2” gets vibes out front and setting a cheerful path for buoyant sax lines.  Had this tune been slipped into George Gruntz’s “Mental Cruelty”, I’m not sure anybody would’ve known any different.  Jazz for a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.

“Violent Collaborations” begins out harmlessly enough, but much like unknowingly wandering into the bad part of town, the casual string and horns grow quickly ominous, and the avant-garde growls and electronic screams leave the sense of hoping that an available taxi turns the corner for a quick escape route.

The seventh track, a medley, begins with a cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”. It’s an inspired choice, and in retrospect, a natural one, since Ornette, more than most, was able to draw out beauty from the most fearful of sounds. The ensemble does his composition justice, as an electronic cemetery hum settles over the rustling of percussion and strings. The theme continues for the entirety of the melody; the composition simply visits different parts of the same cemetery.

“The Three Doors Pt. 3” has an Indo-Jazz flavor. Saz takes the lead with bright tinny notes, and the rhythm section joins it at the hip for an infectious groove that will have every foot on the planet tapping and every head bopping. Sax plays over the top, honoring the established groove and propulsing it forward. Harmonium adds texture and softness and tension all at the same time. The pulse of electronics grows stronger, then fades. For me, this was the most thrilling track on a thrilling album.

The album ends with “Ghost Allaround”, which, ironically, is one of the least spooky songs on the album. Lush strings glide just beneath warm saxophone lines, drums keep things amicable.

I think that’s all I got.  Just a brilliant album.  It appears to have been released back in January of 2011; I only discovered it a couple days ago (approx. Feb. 5, 2012; a year after its release date).  My review is hastily written and probably reads that way.  My enthusiasm to share what I’d discovered, however, outweighs my inherent need to edit edit edit.  Enjoy.

Released on the Morr Music label.

Originally music from the Weilheim, Bavaria scene, but the geographic source of the music has expanded with the size of the collective.

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