The growing intersection of music and technology sometimes makes it difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. For those truly focusing on the arena rather than merely dabbling in it, that's exactly the point. Seamless integration is the goal, one that's achieved with considerable success on Our Theory. Samples, programming and post-production processing mix with organic grooves and strong improvisational acumen on a record that will appeal to fans of Norwegian nu-jazzers like Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft and Eivind Aarset.
The reason those Norwegians are so successful at what they do, is because beneath the processing, loops and sampling lies unequivocally strong musicianship. The same can be said for this group. New York-based Turkish expatriate Ilhan Ersahin may not be well-known, but he's a robust-toned saxophonist who spends more time contributing to the overall ambience of the project than he does muscular soloing. The same can be said for guitarist/keyboardist Thor Madsen, who is all about texture.
Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz has been building an ever-expanding audience for his guitar-centric Ladyland group and piano-based Quartet, both well-captured on Face-a- Face (Blue Note, 2006). Clearly coming from the Miles Davis electric school, he's nevertheless his own man, with energy, range and textural breadth that expands on the late trumpet icon's achievements as he assumes the position of dominant soloist here.
Bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rueckert have crossed paths before, though they're more often heard in more straight-ahead contexts. Here, they're a rhythm section capable of visceral grooves and, in the case of Rueckert, a polyrhythmic complexity that adds range without losing site of the fundamentals.
The disc emerged from two days of jams that were then shaped, over a longer period of time, into the ten pieces heard here. Much the way Karta (ECM, 2000) was taken from a longer improvisation and broken up into shorter pieces that give the appearance of greater up-front consideration, it's hard to know how much here is pastiche and how much is real-time collaboration.
But at the end of the day it doesn't really matter; what does is that Our Theory is a solid entry in the nu-jazz sphere, and proof that it's not just going on in Europe. Recorded in Manhattan and released on Ersahin's Nublu Recordsnamed after his New York City clubOur Theory is evidence that music and technology are being successfully fused in North America as well.
Personnel: Ilhan Ersahin: saxophone, samples; Erik Truffaz: trumpet; Thor Madsen: guitar, keyboards, programming; Jochen Rueckert: drums; Matt Penman: bass; Anders Hentze: percussion (6, 7); Marla Turner: vocals (4).