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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live

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Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch and his group Ronin joined the ECM Records roster in 2006 with their label debut, Stoa. Since then they have produced a new ECM set every two years, with Holon (2008), Llyría (2010), and now their first recorded-in-concert set for the label, the double-disc Live.Ronin's music has been called Zen Funk, ritual groove music, and mechanistic minimalism. Live proves the group is just as tight onstage as it is in the studio. This is a band that gets into a groove and won't let go, setting up--with extended repetition of three, four or five-note ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live

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Change can be good, though there's often a sense of loss when a significant adjustment happens. Honing his very specific Ritual Groove/Zen Funk music for more than a decade, Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch was hit with a particularly big change when Ronin's founding bassist, Bjørn Meyer, left in 2011 to pursue personal projects. The more recent departure of equally longstanding percussionist Andi Pupato on September 1, 2012, leaves Ronin--with new bassist, Thomy Jordi, in tow--to forge ahead as a quartet, making Live a particularly bittersweet album; the final recording of the group that has gained critical and popular acclaim since ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: London, England, November 16, 2011

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Nik Bärtsch's RoninLondon Jazz FestivalKing's PlaceLondon, EnglandNovember 16, 2011 Looking at the listings for day six of the London Jazz Festival, the term “spoilt for choice" sprang to mind. At the Barbican, pianists Stefano Bollani and French veteran Martial Solal led a double bill supported by Marcin Wasilewski's piano trio; at the Purcell Room, rising stars Phronesis promised a night to remember in a concert without lights, entitled Pitch Black, while at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Soul Rebels Brass Band offered up the spirit of New Orleans inflected with modern urban-dance ...

INTERVIEWS

Nik Bartsch: Rhythmically Dancing Around Fugato Fires

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Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók once said, “In art there are only fast or slow developments. Essentially it is a matter of evolution, not revolution." Pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch would be the first to recognize that he is no revolutionary, as his aesthetic vision draws inspiration from multiple sources, ranging from 20th century classical music to funk, and from Japanese ritual music to minimalism. The distillation of all these sounds results in a music that invites meditation and at the same time urges you to move to the groove--something of a feat, it has to be said. Whether ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria

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On Stoa (ECM Records, 2005), Nik Bärtsch's Ronin offered up music made with a clock-like precision. Zen Funk, Ritual Groove Music--take your pick of descriptive tags--was meted out by a machine-like ensemble, using repetition and reduction and space sparked by the leader's punctuating, crystalline piano notes underlain, a great deal of the time, by a bass/contrabass clarinet rumble that suggested a sinister gargantuan presence dwelling in the basement beneath the machinery.Holon (ECM, 2008), the Swiss band's second recording for the German label, loosened some of the bolts on the machinery. The music still felt half human/half machine--like sounds ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria

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Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Llyrìa ECM Records 2010 Few artists have emerged in recent times with so unique and fully-formed a voice as pianist Nik Bärtsch. Living largely, as he does, in the jazz world--especially since coming to ECM in 2006 with Stoa, after years foundation-setting and groundbreaking work in his native Switzerland, honing the distinctive blend of minimalist repetition, interlocking polyrhythms and compelling grooves that he's dubbed “Zen Funk" and “Ritual Groove" on a series of independent releases--the most unusual aspect to Bärtsch's music is its distinct lack of attention to overt soloing, something that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria

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Pianist Nik Bärtsch's Ronin has traveled a long way since its formation in 2001, through its early albums on Ronin Rhythm Records, its signing with ECM, and the three discs that label has so far released. Mid-decade, the Swiss band was forging its reputation with a relentlessly beat-centric style which Bärtsch dubbed “Zen funk" and “ritual groove music"--a blend of minimalism and James Brown which gave P-funkster George Clinton's maxim “free your ass and your mind will follow" a new millennial spin. The beats are still present, but are tempered now by other dimensions. The three ECM ...



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