Samuel Blaser Quartet: As the Sea
As The Sea opens with the set's most abstract music. Ducret's palm-muted, insectoid guitar creeps all over Oester's nervous, finger- tapping bass. Blaser enters circumspectly, tiptoeing around the periphery. Cleaver, by contrast, dives right in with sizzling cymbals and rattling metals as the tension builds. The piece's melancholic melody oozes out of this seething mass of sound; almost imperceptibly at first, and Ducret takes a pointillistic solo over the rhythm section's aquatic rubato. By the time Blaser steps up for his own solo, Cleaver and Oester have established a loping pulse which, in turn, changes the nature of the melody as it reappears. The second time through, it seems sunnier, almost jaunty.
The second section couldn't be more different. Blaser's jabbing, feinting melody unspools over a slyly funky rhythm. Ducret's solo sets the stage for Blaser's which climaxes in a brief, nervy duet with Cleaver. Unexpected rhythmic modulations change the course of Blaser's and Ducret's improvisations. Cleaver's own densely polyrhythmic solo is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Motian's work with Keith Jarrett; there's a palpable feeling of impending chaos, but Cleaver never quite lets go of the rhythmic thread. "Part 111" transitions with an inventive solo from Oester that cuts and pastes free jazz with incredibly precise, almost classical-sounding snippets. Ducret and Blaser take the pensive melody as a duet, and then repeat it over crashing cymbals and rumbling bass. Cleaver intercedes with a swirling, rockin' John Bonham-esque 4/4 rhythm as Ducret and Blaser extend the melody out further and further. The compositional component of "Part 1V" is a labyrinthine foray that alternates brief tutti sections with be-boppy phrases that have a cheerful, Ornette Coleman-ish sensibility. Blaser's solo here is first-rate; articulate, swinging, and throwing off Albert Mangelsdorff-inspired multiphonics at will. Ducret's distorted, fiery soloing here provides some of the albums most intense moments as Cleaver and Oester eagerly rise to the challenge.
It is hard to convey the depth and profundity of Samuel Blaser's As The Sea in a simple CD review. One of the most necessary jazz albums of the year, As The Sea is the sound of four virtuosos interacting on the highest level, completely unbound by style, genre, and other superfluous concerns.
Track Listing: As The Sea (Part I); As The Sea (Part II); As The Sea (Part III); As The Sea (Part IV).
Personnel: Samuel Blaser: trombone; Marc Ducret: guitar; Bänz Oester: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.
Record Label: Hatology
Style: Modern Jazz