Part of what makes jazz unique is the interplay between the composed and the improvised, an interplay compellingly explored in Dietrich Eichmann and Jeff Arnal’s new CD, The Temperature Dropped Again. Pianist Eichmann studied with Alexander von Schlippenbach in the early ‘80s and was initially a free jazz improviser, but then for twelve years he focused on composing. Recently he returned to improvisation, with a wealth of compositional acumen at his disposal. Arnal, a drummer and percussionist, also has a strong composing background as well as a dedication to improvised music, which includes frequent duets with spontaneous saxophone master Charles Gayle.
The recording is composed of two suites, “The Temperature Dropped Again” and “Four French Apparitions,” as well as “...durch offene Grenzen,” an impressive sixteen-minute exercise in energy. All the songs are improvisations determined by compositions, and within this framework Eichmann and Arnal cover a great deal of territory. Their intimacy with their instruments allows them to bring forth an array of fresh, unpredictable sounds; the music is alternately dissonant, meditative, industrial, lilting, explosive, and stark. In the first suite, “Pendulum” is a particularly lovely piece, simultaneously lyrical and free, and “Half Pint” works boldly with silence. The highlight is “Four French Apparitions”; the four songs shimmer with delicacy and beauty as Eichmann’s rapidly cascading high notes create an otherworldly sparkle of sound.
This CD was recorded in Germany in 2002, and although it was only the second time Eichmann and Arnal played together, they are clearly simpatico. They hold to no particular limitations or rules as they work the edge between music and sound; both are interested in dynamics and the use of space, and both explore the spare as well as the orchestral sides of their instruments. A playful element is at work as well; clearly they enjoy the process. There’s also more to come: a few days after recording this CD, Eichmann and Arnal spent another two days in the studio, and hopefully this material will be released soon. And if you can’t wait that long, keep a lookout for Arnal, who lives in Brooklyn and plays out frequently.
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This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Dietrich Eichmann: Piano; Jeff Arnal: Percussion.