This young Austrian collective's sophomore effort is quite an ambitious undertaking. Divided over a CD and a vinyl LP, Chuffdrone offer up a passionate set of urgent and extensive tunes which are constructed around the reciprocity of improvisation and composition. Each member of the quintet has a say and puts their individual spin on a variety of patterns of sonic impulses, hence the title actio / re:actio . In a tense display of acoustic fusion jazz, memorable melodies are as prevalent as ferocious group improvisation.
Ambiguity is the main theme and concept running through this entire project like a thread; action vs. reaction, vinyl vs. CD, improvisation vs. composition and, to round it all off, each musician of the quintet even contributes at least two original songs to the mix. The democratic fashion in which the musicians share authorship is reflected in the music. Ego has no place in a group that relies on vigilant ears for precise and careful interplay. Be it the thumping bass stabs sharing violent exchanges with the blasting drums on the CD opener "Calling For Strength" or the on-point decorative saxophone squeals trading questions with percussive piano patterns on "Nonololo," a strong sense of unity remains intact from beginning to end. The bassist Judith Ferstl comments on this: "For this album especially it was important to us, that the democratic fashion in which we make music together be reflected in as many ways as possible. The balance of our interplay is our special strength and the focus of our approach." In Chuffdrone she is joined by Judith Schwarz on drums, Jul Dillier on piano, Robert Schröck on saxophones and Lisa Hofmaninger on sax and bass clarinet.
The extent to which the band constitutes a special tightness can be observed in the improvisational sections of the pieces. The matter in question isn't the solos which are deserving of merit in their own rightbut the sort of deconstructive episodes featured in almost every tune on the record. "Calling for Strength" comes to a sudden halt halfway through, before dry bass sounds are guided by flapping brushes on drums and rapidly fluttering piano lines which slowly lead back to the menacing main theme of the song. "Beyond 94" or "Friday 20 15" follow a similar formula, while takes such as "Nid Alls" demonstrate improvisation as the core principle of the tune.
However, the quintet is at its very best when all the parametersfrom composition through improvisation and melody to harmonywork together to create strong and lasting momentum. The closing section of "Beyond M94" belongs to that variety. Nostalgic harmonies let the reeds glide along in special unison while the drums are satisfied accompanying with a percussive Hip-Hop beat. Besides showing off tasty alto sax cries, "Asue" also provides another very memorable moment of the record, mainly defined by the 3- step downwards falling progression from I over bVi to iV arguably alluding to the James Bond theme. Hofmaninger's switching back and forth between saxophone and bass clarinet, as demonstrated on "They Say They Don't Belong To Us," gives an already sonically diverse recording the finishing touch in variety.
Completed by remarkably clear sonic production values, actio / re:actio stands as a very accomplished sophomore offering by some of Austria's most promising jazz musicians. It should prove exciting to see where they go from here.
CD: Calling For Strength; Nid Alls; Nonololo; Asue; They Say They Don't Belong To Us; Fresh Start; Beyond
M94. LP: Friday 20 15; He Plays Blue For Her; Beyond M94; Sein & haben.
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