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 ...read more
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 ...read more
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 ...read more
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 ...read more
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 ...read more
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 ...read more
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 ...read more
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
Punkt 08's first day of full programming was a full one. In addition to five concerts and three live remixes, festival goers were treated to a lengthy public discussion between Brian Eno and Jon Hassell that proved as entertaining as it was enlightening. Punkt has also been running daytime seminars since inception, but this year another rare and equally enlightening event was Gavin Bryars' lunchtime session, with a performance later that evening that was, along with Nik Bartsch's Ronin, one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the festival. And ...read more
Nik Bartsch's Ronin at Joe's Pub, NYCJoe's PubNew York City, New YorkMarch 5, 2008 Simple complexity, complex simplicity; intellectual control, emotional abandon; individual details, organic wholeness; deep, deep bottom, floating highs; irresistible funky groove, phase-shifting rhythmic interaction; dramatic storytelling, propulsive drive; just a band, an artistic entity. Nik Bartsch's Ronin, and his music, is all of the above and much, much more. Having first played at Joe's Pub on July 3, 2007 (which I unfortunately just could not attend), presenting the music of Stoa (ECM, 2006), the band returned triumphant to ...read more
It may seem odd to begin a CD review by expressing gratitude over its length, but there you have it. Pianist Nik Bärtsch's Holon, with his Ronin group, is a shade under 56 minutes and it is to his credit that he understands that with his particular brand of music, less is more. Like a walk on a foggy evening, it is only wondrous for a while. Bärtsch's first of six independently released discs before signing with ECM had the unfortunate title of Ritual Groove Music (Ronin-Rhythm, 2001), essentially trapping him within a new genre of his ...read more
For those of us who weren't paying attention earlier, Nik Bartsch's Ronin first burst on the scene with its 2007 ECM Records debut, Stoa. But the Swiss composer-pianist had, in fact, been building a just-beneath-the-radar discography for several years on his own Ronin Rhythm Records.Which brings us to Holon, Bartsch's second ECM set, one which moves the music deeper into the Zen Funk" and Ritual Groove" foundational mold that the pianist and his band have constructed.It's counterproductive to intellectualize the Ronin sound. Considered within the melody/rhythm/harmony framework, rhythm is in the forefront here. Or, rather, rhythm, ...read more
With the release of Stoa (ECM, 2006), pianist Nik Bärtsch and his band Ronin caused a tsunami of words to be written that attempted to describe what this music was and why it evoked such strong emotions. Certainly, the shock of the new had something to do with it. Upon reflection, however, the key things turned out to be a deep funkiness united with minimalist repetition and phase-shifting polyrhythms, played with Zen-like concentration. In other words, this new sound was, paradoxically, the sum of familiars. The ecstatically mesmerizing Holon finds Bärtsch and Ronin two years removed from ...read more
While Nik Bärtsch's 2006 ECM debut, Stoa, was a powerful first shot across the international bow, garnering a place on many journalists' Best of" lists for the year, the Swiss pianist had, in fact, been honing his self- proclaimed Zen Funk" since the beginning of the decade, starting with the equally descriptive Ritual Groove Music (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2001). Holon capitalizes on the success and innovation of Stoa, again featuring his Ronin quintet, proving the value of ongoing musical partnerships, especially when creating music that's paradoxically as rarified and visceral as Bärtsch's.
Plenty has been written ...read more
Pianist/composer Nik Bartsch's wondrous synthesis of intellect and funk, of lofty cerebral abstraction and urgent physical energy, is so thrilling that it may produce in the listener an urge to scramble on top of the nearest building and start yelling hallelujah!" and eureka!" at everyone within earshot.
Holon is the second album Bartsch has made with his band Ronin for ECM, following Stoa (ECM, 2006), and is the latest addition to an outstanding body of work previously released on his own Ronin Rhythm Records label. Holon finds a new depth of nuance in Bartsch's music, a more assured ...read more
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