Dec 22 2012
The Two-Fer Series, featuring albums from any year, and any artist, and for any theme that strikes me at the moment.
Today’s column features: Jesse Van Ruller Chambertones Trio The Ninth Planet and Patrick Dunst Tripod Encounters…
… two chamber jazz recordings that I enjoy listening to first thing in the morning or late at night after a very long day.
Jesse Van Ruller Chambertones Trio – The Ninth Planet
Following some straight-ahead releases on the Criss Cross label, guitarist Jesse van Ruller created his Chambertones Trio. The sound derived from guitar, bass clarinet, and bass was an extreme departure of what came before. It’s also resulted in some very compelling music great for quiet moments watching the snow fall silently over the city.
It’s a sparse album, a quality further enhanced by the absence of a drummer. As such, group interplay becomes even more essential, both to bind the music in a cohesive entity and also to prevent it from becoming a snooze-fest. Interplay becomes key to it all. And it’s The Ninth Planet‘s strength.
On the up-tempo pieces, I can’t help but think of molecules spinning around one another when this music plays. The trio members gain a velocity that gives their individual parts an impression of a singular whole. The notes generate patterns and paths that stay within close orbit of one another to where it becomes difficult to differentiate one from the other, a sense of combustible energy catalyzed in a very tiny space. The title-track “Ninth Planet” has the trio members scooting and darting about yet expressing a solitary point of view.
And on the slower tunes (of which this album has far more of), the music gently rocks and sways in space, generating a serene atmosphere ripe for daydreams and lazy afternoons. Album opener “Ruimte” brings that aspect right to the front of the stage, as Roelofs bass clarinet establishes a languorous pace that Ruller and Roelofs are happy to match. The defacto lullaby “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” just barely hovers overhead, sounds like it might drift away at any moment, but remains.
Just a great example of how to do so much with so little. The Ninth Planet is also a great example of what musicians are doing as they explore the Chamber Jazz subgenre.
Released on the C-String Records label.
Jazz from the Netherlands.
Patrick Dunst Tripod – “Encounters”
Patrick Dunst Tripod works a different aspect of the Chamber Jazz subgenre. Bringing in more of the folk and classical elements original to the earliest manifestations of Chamber Jazz, he’s created a richly textured set of compositions, though did so without sacrificing the necessary room to breathe that performers require to interact in this setting.
This is music that works the angles and schemes the melodies. A surging rhythm will give way to strings that melt post-bop ice into a warm ballad. Alt-classical passages are trail heads that lead up to world-jazz constructs. And all the colors and brushstrokes make the silences of empty canvass so much more powerful and evocative.
Your album personnel: Patrick Dunst (reeds), Igmar Jenner (violin), Christian Bakanic (accordion), Michael Lagger (piano), Reinhold Schmölzer (percussion), Valentin Czihak (bass), and guests: Tjasa Fabjancic (vocals), Fiston Mwanza (spoken poetry), and Berndt Luef (vibes).
Opening track “Prolog / Epilog” epitomizes much of what’s great about this album. It begins with quirky statements and a driving tempo, then transitions to warm strings and a soulful sax. Piano is graceful, and plays in the shadows with accordion. Rhythm section flips back and forth between the two camps. Jazz, folk, and classical pronouncements are made. Though moving at an easy pace and using inside voices, this song sounds Big. But the best moments are found buried in the details.
Interplay between reeds and strings are the album’s highlight, but accordion adds some nice harmonization and contrast to strings and piano to rate a close second (as evidenced on track “The Writer”). There are some vocals, mostly non-word variety. There is a loud spoken word section on “Ville De Chien,” the album’s only real weak spot. The tune in and of itself is fine, but it’s completely out of place from the rest of the album and kills the flow. The slower tunes are the stronger of the batch, but the up-tempo pieces have their appeal. Best is when the temperature rises within the span of a particular tune, like “Flucht,” in which a spacey drift becomes rocket fuel locomotion. Guest vibes on album closer “Momo,” arguably the prettiest track on the album. Paired with accordion, it’s just too beautiful to put into words.
Encounters is one of my happier finds in the closing weeks of 2012.
Released on the Session Work Records label.
Jazz from the Graz, Austria scene.