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Pianist Boris Netsvetaev's Das Hammerklavier Trio (archaic German for Grand Piano Trio) is a throwback in name only. The fleet, youthful ensemble is deeply entrenched in jazz's 21st century incarnations, embracing genre-hopping styles, global influences and a devotion to collective freedom. The group is also aptly named in that Netsvetaev's piano occupies the foreground for the vast majority of Now I Know Who Shot J.F.K., unleashing eighth-note runs and thundering fourths over the nimble, more reserved rhythmic underpinnings of bassist Phillipp Steen and drummer Kai Bussenius.
Born in St. Petersburg, Netsvetaev views the jazz tradition through the thick lens of European classicism. His piano is equal parts Monk and Hancock with a healthy dash of Ellington and Prokofiev. Four minutes into "Crazy Eighths," the album's exuberant opener, Netsvetaev follows a group of sharply- accented triads with a series of sweeping, intervallic runs that blanket the steady, swinging rhythm. It's a typical exchange for the trio, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation and balancing freedom with rhythmic cohesion and structure.
Nodding to his classical roots, Netsvetaev offers a loping take on Prokofiev's "Intermezzo" that finds the pianist coyly layering denseat times heavy-handedlines over Steen and Bussenius' playful beat. Steen offers a virtuosic statement of his own over a beat that vacillates between loose time and lock-step quarter-notes. The album's other cover, Billy Strayhorn's "Bloodcount," is a rich rendering that, nonetheless, lacks the depth of feeling and patient delivery that the evocative melody demands.
Now I Know Who Shot J.F.K. ends with the expansive title track, a vast exploration of time and freedom that morphs from a swift flag-waver to an open-ended improvisation that features the group at its most avant-garde. Netsvetaev strums up the piano's strings behind Steen's screeching multiphonics before the group makes way for an extended solo exploration by Bussenius. A percussive jumble is reassembled by the resourceful drummer before the trio launches back into the original, breakneck tempo as Netsvetaev takes the melody out, ending in a cloud of emphatic glissandos.
Track Listing: Crazy Eights; The Necessity of an Escape: Intermezzo; Bloodcount: The Question of Today; Some Strangers in our Galaxy; I Know Who Shot J.F.K.
Personnel: Boris Netsvetaev: piano; Philipp Steen: bass; Kai Bussenius: drums.