Joe Haider Double Quartet: Mysterious (2006)
Insofar as there has been any debate at all over the whole jazz 'n' strings thing, it was probably kicked off by Charlie Parker's work in that setting. There, of course, the strings served largely as a context for Parker's still extraordinary flights, and the issue of integration between strings and the standard small jazz group instrumentation was more or less irrelevant.
Here, however, the integration issue is essential to the success of the music, and despite the fact that there are places where the division between composition and improvisation is distinctly blurred, these are cancelled out by passages in which the presence of the strings takes the music to the wrong side of sumptuous.
The fact that these moments are in turn in marked by contrast to scored passages for the strings that border upon Bela Bartok's writing makes for an overall listening experience that fails to make a lasting impression. This is best exemplified by the opening passage of "Vision & Reality" whereof all thingsthe work of the British group Henry Cow also springs to mind, not least as a consequence of how the two quartets combine to serve the same purpose.
There are other times when things come together. "A Sunday In Switzerland" is as buoyant as one could wish for and the level of integration between the two musical units is never in any doubt. It does however tend to stick in the midst of a programme that ultimately ranges too widely, as exemplified by the likes of "Call From The Hill," where Thomi Geiger's somewhat generic tenor sax merges with the strings to evoke visions of candlelight and wine and all the clichés that go with them.
The veneer of politeness that marks this disc is broken only by the occasional passages for the strings and the intermittent vigour of what is presumably Haider's working quartet, and while the temptation to cover a number of bases might have been great given the nature of the project, the fact that so much ground is covered has the effect of denying the music an overall identity.
Visit Joe Haider on the web.
Track Listing: Kollektiv 8; A Sunday In Switzerland; Vision & Reality; Mysterious; For Line; Qui Vole; Call From The Hill; Nesenbach Blues.
Personnel: Joe Haider Quartet: Thomi Geiger: tenor and soprano saxophones; Joe Haider: piano; Giorgos Antoniou: bass; Daniel Aebi: drums. Modern String Quartet: Joerg Widmoser: violin; Winfried Zrenner: violin; Andreas Horicht: viola; Jost-H. Hecker: cello.