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Swiss drummer/bandleader Marc Halbheer couldn't be accused of lumping his eggs in one basket. His more orthodox projects encompass a jazz standards quartet, and the contemporary Trio Edition with bassist Arild Andersen
. Halbheer's more exotic collaborations embrace the folk musics of China, Central Asia, the Alps and the Balkans in genre-defying fusions. Confidence in Symmetry, however, represents a significant step for the drummer in compositional terms. Whereas Halbheer's previous record as a leader, Mood Swings (Texit Music, 2009) was a straight-ahead celebration of swinging West Coast jazz, this offering is constructed upon a numerological approach to harmony, polyrhythms and polymeters.
Though such a blueprint may sound like a recipe for experimental math-jazz taken to an extreme, the fact is that, whislt undeniably cerebral in its sophistication there's plenty of meat in the arrangements and some truly gutsy soloing from the individual quartet members. The delicately controlled harmonic interplay between Klaus Dickbauer's bass clarinet and trombonist Robert Bachner on the opening segment of the epic "The 5 Thing"with bassist Heiri Känzig, guitarist Christy Doran and Halbheer lending pillowy supportbelies the free-form passage that ensues when guitar, trombone and Dickbauer on alto sax follow their respective muses; individual freedom, however, is bound by a sense of collective control and this philosophy governs the recording as a whole.
Halbheer's use of dynamicsthe shifting weight and shades of the musicis keenly felt throughout. Melodious brass motifs pave the way for rasping solos, bass vamps and unified riffs give way to looser rhythmic reins, while Doran and Halbheer shift between feathery supporting roles and exhilarating lead. Most of these traits are present on the unconventional funk of "Major Surf," with Bachner taking a cracking solo mid-song. The quintet's steps are tightly synchronized on the defining melody of the title track; extended, lithe trio passages followwith first Doran, then Dickbauer and finally Bachner soloing with passionbefore the quintet reunites on the head.
A vibrant bass riff, Doran's striking chords and Halbheer's insistent yet light sticks drive the quintet with a galloping train-rhythm on the visceral "Tetraction." Halbheer's solo drum spot, whislt relatively short, is laced with Afro-Caribean rhyhms. The composition's mid-section is marked by tremendous lyricism, with Känzig's yearning arco accompanied by the feathery touch of Doran and Halbheer on brushes. Charging bass and drums inspire Dickbauer to another excellent solo prior to the quintet's return to the striking opening motif.
There's a brooding quality to the slow-burning "The Second Flat of a Minor Bee" where deep arco, mournful trombone and bass clarinet combine sympathetically. Slow, circular motifs and dreamy, quasi psychedelic guitar color this sultry blues tale, which closes with an unhurried trombone/arco/clarinet motif in seeming homage to Weather Report
's "Birdland." Angular funk, jazz-rock and swing come together seamlessly on the uplifting "The 2nd A-Bob." Stirring statements from trombone, sax and guitar-each framed by punchy collective riffslead towards a unified group motif that closes a hugely satisfying trackand indeed albumon a high note.
Confidence in Symmetry is bold yet nuanced, carefully crafted and free-flowing at once. Whatever mathematical formula Halbheer employs, it works a charm. With this consistently engaging work Halbheer emphatically announces his credentials as an exciting composer of original stamp.
Track Listing: The 5 Thing; Major Surf; Confidence in Symmetry; Tetraction; The Second Flat of A Minor Bee; The 2nd A-Box.
Personnel: Klaus Dickbauer: reeds; Robert Bachner: trombone; Christy Doran: guitar; Heiri Känzig: bass; Marc Halbheer: drums.