Hammer Klavier Trio: Rocket In The Pocket (2012)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Power piano trios willing to plug-in are not the norm in jazz, but Hamburg's Hammer Klavier Trio, thankfully, never received that message. The music that they present completely erases the dividing lines between traditional piano trios, hard hitting threesomes like The Bad Plus, and genre-blending Euro-stars like the late Esbjorn Svensson. This band has all of that in their aural make-up, but they don't fit neatly into any of those categories.
Rocket In The Pocket contains music that can be rich, raw or refined, depending on the moment. The Hammer Klavier Trio charts its own course through the highways and byways of music, both composed and improvised, as it touches on rock, electro-soundscapes, classical environs, jam band badlands, funk and jazz. The trio does it its way all the while, but isn't averse to citing some of its influences. "Hysterioso," a chromatic blues stair climb with a backbeat, is a clear nod in name and sound to pianist Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso." The trio references saxophonist Paul Desmond's biggest hit by creating its own odd-metered, multiple-of-five music ("Take Fifteen"), and name-checks pianist Andrew Hill on a gorgeous piece of music that shows off bassist Philipp Steen's arco work ("The Incredible Atmosphere Of Andrew Hill's Music"). The album-closing "Harold Mabern" is a soulful salute to the hard-grooving pianist of the same name and it proves to be one of the most melodically pleasing pieces on the album.
The Hammer Klavier Trio has a clear knack for making clever salutes to jazz masters, but that's not its only strength. The trio can work in open, odd-metered expanses ("A Sketch In Dark Colours"), sew splendid piano riffs into the middle of jamming vehicles ("Rocket In The Pocket") and blur styles and eras with relative ease. "Play Me A Fugue" comes off like a meeting between Johann Sebastian Bach, Jaki Byard, and drummers Han Bennink and Elvin Jones. Pianist Boris Netsvetaev starts off as the baroque straight man, but gets more outlandish as things develop and drummer Kai Bussenius gives off a strong sense of groove, yet brings a puckish power into play; Steen is the only one who's on his best behavior.
While cooperative trios rarely like to put one person above the other, it's unavoidable in most cases. All three men in this group musically pull their weight, but pianist Boris Netsvetaev is the real mover and shaker of the bunch. Netsvetaev wrote all twelve tunes included on this disc and his all-inclusive take on music guides and defines the Hammer Klavier Trio's sound.
Piano trios are a dime-a-dozen in jazz, but electro-acoustic outfits that cover this much ground are a relative rarity; that's what makes the Hammer Klavier Trio such a find.
Track Listing: Hysterioso; A Sketch In Dark Colours; Suicide Train; Tekla; Plan B; Play Me A Fugue; Rocket In The Pocket; The Incredible Atmosphere Of Andrew Hill's Music; Take Fifteen; Desert Sun; Kaleidoscope; Harold Mabern.
Personnel: Boris Netsvetaev: piano, keyboards; Philipp Steen: acoustic bass, electric bass; Kai Bussenius: drums, percussion.
Record Label: Jan Matthies Records