Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

545

Sha's Banryu: Chessboxing Volume One

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
With a group possessing as strong and unique an identity as Swiss pianist Nik Bartsch's Ronin—heard most recently on the remarkable Holon (ECM, 2008) and in performance in Kristiansand, Norway at Punkt 08—It's not surprising that the debut album by its reedman Sha possesses many of the same characteristics. Ronin, after all, is more than just a group; it's a musical philosophy combining minimalist tendencies with deep grooves and improvisation so subtle that it's at a near subconscious level. Chessboxing Volume One, by Sha's Banyru quintet, takes Ronin's "Ritual Groove Music" and moves it in a different direction, the result of a new combination of instruments and an approach more heavily weighted towards lean melody.

Perhaps it's because Sha's instruments—alto sax, bass clarinet and Vietnamese khen (a bamboo pipe-based wind instrument)—linear as they are, lend themselves to melody which, with Sha in the writer's chair, become a greater focus. Banryu also features vocalist Isa Wiss who, with the exception of the opening "012" where she creates lyrics on the fly, plays a wordless melodic foil to Sha's instruments. While repetition and percussion play a large part in Banryu's sound, they're generally less aggressive than Ronin's piano/bass/drums/percussion/reeds lineup. It's impossible not to feel the funk here, but drummer Julian Sartorius is less assertive than Ronin's Kaspar Rast, with a backbeat that's pervasive but doesn't share the same sharp snap.



There's also an ethereal, atmospheric nature to Banryu that differentiates it from Ronin. At the end of "030," the reeds and voice are coated with reverb, as they move towards the stratosphere while Sartorius, bassist Thomas Tavano and pianist Mik Keusen play ever more delicately, ultimately fading to black. "042" begins with deep bass harmonics, again drenched in reverb and other electronics, creating lush chordal swells as Keusen enters with a single note in a repeated, shifting meter. As Tavano counters with a contrapuntal polyrhythm and Sartorius creates a delicate cymbal pulse, Sha joins with a dark, eastern-tinged melody that leads to one of his most delineated solos of the set. Still, as with Ronin, there's a focus here that avoids anything resembling reckless abandon, instead a more considered approach that blurs the line between form and freedom.



Still, there's no denying Banryu's uncanny nexus of the hypnotic and the booty-shaking. "030" may fade to dark at the end of its 11-minute run, and it may begin softly, with Sha and Wiss wrapping soft, long lines around Keusen's iterative playing. But at its core, when Tavano enters, it's a visceral piece of odd-metered funk that's equally cerebral—music that finds the perfect balance between head and heart. Like trumpet icon Jon Hassell's search for the meeting place of The North and South of You, Sha's Chessboxing Volume One is music that appeals to both hemispheres, creating its own union that can be taken on a purely instinctive level while providing plenty of grist for those who like their music as food for thought.


Track Listing: 012; 050; 030; 042; 031; 044; 045.

Personnel: Thomas Tavano: bass; Isa Wiss: vocals; Sha: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, khen; Julian Sartorius: drums; Mik Keusen: piano.

Title: Chessboxing Volume One | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Ronin Rhythm Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read The Child in Me CD/LP/Track Review The Child in Me
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: November 23, 2017
Read The Way Home CD/LP/Track Review The Way Home
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Shadow Work CD/LP/Track Review Shadow Work
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 22, 2017
Read Veterans of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read "Cub(an)ism" CD/LP/Track Review Cub(an)ism
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Heavy Weather" CD/LP/Track Review Heavy Weather
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Rising Tide" CD/LP/Track Review Rising Tide
by Geannine Reid
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Kinship" CD/LP/Track Review Kinship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "My Love" CD/LP/Track Review My Love
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 28, 2017
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor