Feb 9 2012
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.
Apr 26 2012
Recommended: Threads Orchestra – “Threads”
There’s a fiction writing style called head-hopping. It’s when a single story is told from the point of view of many different characters. The story intro begins with Character A, then the point of view shifts (or hops) over to Character B who tells the story as they see it, then Character C gets a turn, maybe a return to B, and so on. It’s a tricky style to wield, and it’s why it’s done infrequently and, often, badly. And that’s understandable… it’s a tough proposition just to take a spark of creativity, bring it to blossom, then nurture it through a story arc life all the way to its final resting place of The End. For a writer to attempt this creativity life cycle from multiple angles adds a degree of difficulty to an already difficult challenge. It’s too easy for a story to end up jumbled and incoherent. It’s really not advisable.
It’s also not a style unique to fiction writers. Musicians do it, too. But whereas the writer expresses points of view through words, musicians do it through sounds. Similar to the risk posed the story, an album can end up lacking cohesion and identity. It’s really not advisable. But, damn, when it works, the result is a thrilling ride of notes and themes. Personally, I run into very few albums that successfully pull it off, but when I do, they sit near the top of the favorite albums on my shelf.
That brings us to Threads Orchestra, and their album Threads.
Your album personnel: Adam Robinson (viola), Julian Gregory (violin), Chris Montague (guitar), Kit Downes (piano), Rus Pearson (bass), Kristoffer Wright (drums), and Semay Wu (cello).
This album is not a fusion of jazz, classical, folk, Americana, tango, and rock. This is a story told from the point of view of each of those characters.
The album opens with the avant-classical piece “Attached.” It’s a fearful beast, drawing inexorably closer. Skeletal piano lines ominously announce its arrival. Strings use harmony like sharp blades of steel. Drums are the thumps of heartbeats gone cold. What we have here is a horror story.
But that’s not how second track “Gene Wilder” sees it. Opening with sprightly piano trills and plucky strings, it’s a happy afternoon love affair. And if there were any question about this, when the strings swoop in like sunlight, the terror of track one is a distant curiosity.
However, third track “Titus Salt” elicits imagery of Big Futures and setting out on a journey of self-discovery. The melody is fragmented, and presented in escalating steps. It endows the tune with an asymmetry that is simply intoxicating, much like watching each mesmerizing step of a tightrope walker, and the exhilaration of vicariously experiencing the sudden fear of falling and the recapture of balance. Heavy on the strings, but judicious in parsing out time in the spotlight, this is a sound very reminiscent of Bill Frisell’s Disfarmer/Signs of Life bluegrass Americana. It’s also my favorite album track.
Fourth track “Jay-Zee” begins quiet as a mouse, then explodes into folk and tango, gypsy strings, a jazz piano solo, guitar rock solo, and a rhythm section that borders on both jazz and rock. It’s a tempest of a song, and its fury can make it easy to forget anything that came before.
Now, let’s talk about what’s come before and what’s still ahead. Telling the story from multiple points of view, head-hopping, is more than just switching whose eyes the story is seen from. Because, ultimately, it has to be a single story, a cohesive solitary point which the differing views are all staring at. There have to be commonalities, connecting attributes to show that this is one story as told by many people and not just a collection of vaguely interwoven stories that only share a front and back cover. On Threads, yes, the album is told as through the points of view of many characters, but each tune shares elements which bind them into a singular tale.
The heavy avant-classical of the opening track is a motif that makes appearances throughout. It may never dominate again as it does in “Attached,” but other characters/songs register its presence throughout. No different than the jazz and Americana and tango and rock in the first half of the album; they also make return appearances. For a story, it would be described as establishing the community; for an album, a cohesion of sound. But however it’s described, it has to do with tying it all together.
On fifth track “Inheritance,” it’s a quiet ballad of comforting strings, lilting piano, reassuring guitar, and the quiet ambiance of the sun setting over the horizon, street lights dotting the landscape, and a city letting down its guard as the day comes to a close.
Of course, the onset of darkness brings us back to the dangers of night. But where the opener was pure fear, there is a Halloween whimsy on sixth track “Oliver Reed.” The Norman Bates strings are juxtaposed against tango and gypsy swing, and it’s easy to chalk the willies up to the fun kind of scared, which, in the end, is no kind of scared at all. Fun wins yet again.
Album closer “T&C” has finale written all over it… a triumphant march off to the horizon after overcoming conflict and obstacles, of all the characters reveling in the moment together, as one. Piano is head held high, strings uplift the spirit, guitar is a wide grin, and drums & bass are a comforting patter of It’s Alright Now. It’s a gentle swaying tune, a stroll that feels at times like swing. It’s a happy ending and it’s the words The End.
Astonished that this excellent album didn’t hit my radar in 2011, I’m glad to have discovered it at all. Threads Orchestra will be releasing a new album in 2012, details to be reported later. You can be sure I’ll be reviewing it, and if it’s anything as wonderful as Threads, you can expect another enthusiastic recommendation.
The album is Self-Produced. It was released in 2011. Music from the UK.
You can stream the entire album, and purchase it, on their Bandcamp page.
Also, you can stream the entire album on their website, which has an embedded Soundcloud player.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz courtesy of the artists.
Also, I wrote a First Impressions article on this album a month or two ago for Bird is the Worm. You can read it here to see what my very first thoughts were on my very listen listen to Threads, as it was happening.
By davesumner • Jazz Recommendations, Jazz Recommendations - 2011 Releases, Recap: Best of 2011 • 0 • Tags: Recap: Best of 2011