The trio of German saxophonist Stefan Keune with British bassist Dominic Lash and drummer Steve Noble first came together in September 2013 when they appeared at guitarist John Russell's monthly Mopomoso afternoon at The Vortex, Keune having been a regular visitor there through his duo with Russell which dates back to the 90's. The trio worked well together and, a couple of months later, returned to The Vortex to record Fractions (NoBusiness, 2015) which was issued as a limited edition vinyl LP, to considerable acclaim. Recorded in London at the Café Oto Project Space in January 2020, And Now is the trio's second album together.
On his first recording, in 1992, Keune played tenor and sopranino saxophones, before shifting to alto sax, doubling on sopranino and, later, baritone, as many alto players do. In recent years, he has swung back to tenor sax, Fractions featuring him on tenor and sopranino. On And Now, Keune is only heard on tenor sax. (Of course, such details need not have huge significance but may be more to do with the practicalities of international travel with instruments...)
The music consists of three extended improvisations, the shortest, "Whatsoever," clocking in at sixteen-and-a-half minutes, the longest, the opener "Well Then," at twenty-seven. Straight from its start, all three players are in top gear. In person, Keune is quietly spoken and somewhat unassuming; the transition when he takes the stage with a horn in his hand can seem as dramatic as Clark Kent becoming his alter ego. Straight away, propelled by the energy of Lash and Noble, Keune unleashes a fluent, rapid-fire series of upper register notes which, in turn, energize his bandmates.
Such high intensity playing would be unsustainable for the track's full durationfor players or listenersso it is not a surprise when, some eight minutes in, Keune takes a breather, leaving Lash and Noble to shift down a gear. The pair indulge in a musical conversation which gives each a well-deserved solo opportunity, before Keune gradually rejoins as they rebuild momentum, leading to a more reflective passage from all three together. Without any sudden gear changes or jump cuts, this subtly morphs into another section as energetic as the opening.
Variety of pace and dynamics typifies the album and ensures that there is never a dull moment or a flat spot to be heard. All three players are crucial to the trio's music, and the absence of any one would radically alter its tell-tale sound. They all sound engaged throughout and produce engaging music which sets pulses racing, ensuring the album's sixty-six-and-a-half minutes fly by. Excellent.
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