Swiss-reared trumpeter/composer Manuel Mengis is sort of a newbie on the Euro-jazz scene. On this debut effort, he surfacesthrough his music and scope of ideasas a free spirit, although his music merely skirts the free zone during certain movements.
Leading his Swiss sextet, Mengis surfaces as a remarkably mature 33 year-old who embraces a balls-to-the-wall musical outlook. These four lengthy works aim to excite and prod the mind's eye. Founded upon a gritty jazz-rock anchor, thanks to a ferociously hard-hitting bass/guitar/drums attack, the band scalds the listener with oddly-phrased unison lines coupled with soothing horn charts.
But there's more than meets the eyes and ears. Mengis is apt to soar skyward in tandem with alto saxophonist Achim Escher and tenor saxophonist Christoph Erb in several passages teeming with rambunctious choruses and stinging solos. In addition, most of these works are constructed upon thrusting bass and drums-oriented ostinatos. And there are episodes where Mengis and associates take advantage of the structured mayhem with a vigilant sonic assault.
Electric guitarist Flo Stoffner implements loops and volume control techniques to instill a reverse thematic approach on "Susie and the Ponies. Add to that the sextet's solid straightforward pulse amid free jazz/fusion escapades, gradually tempered and then faded into a black hole due to Mengis' softly enacted, bronze-toned lines. On the final track, "Seni, the double sax attack renders a groove-laden and punchy series of choruses steering the way for an up-tempo vibe. The sextet proceeds to vary the flow by regenerating the primary theme with tension and release exchanges that soar toward the red zone.
With these notions in mind, Mengis surfaces as an electrifying soloist and bandleader. He's a thinking man's jazz musician, brimming with youthful vigor and new concepts. Ultimately, the headiness of his compositional output is counterbalanced by a highly entertaining form factor.
Personnel: Manuel Mengis: trumpet; Achim Escher: alto saxophone; Christoph Erb: tenor saxophone;
Flo Stoffner: electric guitar; Marcel Stalder: electric bass; Lionel Friedli: drums.