While it might be Aki Takase
's name which grabs the attention thanks to her illustrious track record, the trio on Auge represents a true co-operative, as the Berlin-based Japanese pianist joins forces with Swiss bassist Christian Weber
and German drummer Michael Griener
in a perfectly balanced triumvirate.
Takase draws on an ouevre which famously encompasses almost the entire history of jazz, stretching from projects reimagining Fats Waller
, Duke Ellington
, and Eric Dolphy
all the way to freeform drama. While neither Weber or Griener boasts quite that degree of eclecticism, backgrounds which take in Ellery Eskelin
, Oliver Lake
, and Die Enttäuschung, the group which made Monks Casino
(Intakt, 2005) with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach
, ensure they are well-versed in these sort of boundary straddling stunts. Consequently they share a rhythmic, harmonic and melodic understanding which supercharges their interactions.
With 14 cuts in 49-minutes, most improvised, there's no need for a calculator to deduce that that they are necessarily pithy. Pithy but packed. Each piece seems to play with tricks with time, such that they cover more than the bare duration implies would be possible. From the Caribbean lilt of "Calcagno" to the romantic balladry of "No Tears" to the volatile "Motion In The Ocean," the threesome is focused and inspired.
Weber's deeply resonant, thick meaty sound permeates the album, coming through especially strong in the unaccompanied introduction to "Face Of The Bass" (not the Ornette tune) embellished by slurs and glissandos which nonetheless recalls Charlie Haden
in its measured gravity. For his part, Griener toggles novel textures and tuneful clatter to color and comment, notably seeming first among equals amid the jostling flurries of "The Pillow Book."
Although a collective, at the suggestion of her colleagues, Takase brings five charts which span a wide range of moods from the alternately scuttling and spiky "Drops Of Light" to the jazzy "And If Not, Why Not." But many of the improvs speak to a joint ethos which effectively blurs what's written and what's not, as exemplified by the consummate interplay of the haunting, controlled "Last Winter," where every note falls into place just so. Likewise it's hard to believe the bounce of "Are Eyes Open?," a duet between Takase and Griener, with its extemporized South African township feel and near syncopated line, is not composed such is the cohesion achieved.
As the three revel in an almost symbiotic interconnection, each allusive vignette reminds that a sketch can wield the emotional heft of a fully worked canvas.
Last Winter; Drops Of Light; Are Eyes Open; No Tears; The Pillow Book; Face Of the Bass; Calcagno; Out Of
Sight; While In Rome; Motion In the Ocean; And If Not, Why Not; Underfelt; Who's Going To Bell The Cat?;
The Ends Justify the Means.