Jurgen Friedrich: Monosuite (2012)
Pianist Jurgen Friedrich doesn't play a single note of music on Monosuite, but his personality and cognitive bearing are omnipresent. While Friedrich's piano was at the heart of the sound on the trio-based Pollock, he removes his hands from the ivories on this follow-up date, allowing a cadre of string players and a highly flexible foursome to express his well-crafted thoughts in their own way.
This 49-minute opus is as much about sought-after equilibrium as anything else. Friedrich builds a series of checks and balances between the strings and improvisers, never letting one dominate for too long, but always allowing for strange meetings and sensational story lines. The strings have their say as they spring to life and sprint up and down on the album opener "Waves," but the improvisers make their move soon after. Alto saxophonist Hayden Chisholm explores the surroundings of "Breaks" with some support from the strings, while drummer John Hollenbeck helps to feed the string-born intrigue on the fabulous "Fiddlesticks." "Blossom" quickly builds to sonic overload before breaking into free roaming dissonant explorations and "Low Tide" proves to be an eerie aural fright of a track. Pianist Achim Kaufmann's foreboding fingers bring a sense of angular dread to this piece.
While Friedrich sets this suite in motion with a series of miniatures, the last four movements are lengthy constructs. "Loops" deals with focus shifts and a tug of war between the uncertain and direct. "Ritual" opens on a solo bass meditation from John Hébert, and builds into a folk-like melody with staccato strings emulating guitar or banjo sounds. "Chacaglia" begins with exotic percussion sprints before settling into somber territory, while the album-ending "Weave" comes off like the illegitimate musical child of film composer Thomas Newman, the legendary Igor Stravinsky, minimalist icon John Adams, and arranger Eddie Sauter, who makes the list because of his urgent, Stan Getz-associated "I'm Late, I'm Late."
Friedrich creates freedom within order throughout this ambitious suite and he never simply uses the strings as window dressing. This is music that thrives on integration and the promise of what might be waiting around the next corner. Relationships, be they simple or complex in nature, are at the heart of this work, helping to make Monosuite a fascinating listen from beginning to end.
Track Listing: Waves; Breaks; Fiddlesticks; Blossom; Low Tide; Loops; Ritual; Chacaglia; Weave.
Personnel: Jurgen Friedrich: composer, conductor; Hayden Chisholm: alto saxophone; Achim Kaufmann: piano; John Hebert: bass; John Hollenbeck: drums; Gerdur Gunnarsdottir: violin; Constanze Sannemuller: violin; Elias Schodel: violin; Adrian Bleyer: violin; Kira Kohlmann: violin; Christine Rox: violin; Irmgard Zavelberg: violin; Mirjam Steymans: violin; Alwin Moser: violin; Naomi Binder: violin; Adi Czeiger: violin; Marla Hansen: viola; Pauline Moser: viola; Yodfat Miron: violin; Andrea Sanz-Vela: viola; Valentin Alexandru: viola; Ulrike Zavelberg: cello; Teemu Myohanen: cello; Nil Kocamangil: cello; Marnix Mohring: cello; Axel Ruge: bass; Matan Gurevitz: bass.
Record Label: Pirouet Records