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Niculin Janett Quartet: Complexes

Geno Thackara By

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Despite the connotations of its title, the sound of Complexes doesn't suggest anything excessively technical (or mental issues either, for that matter). The Niculin Janett Quartet's second recording is a largely sedate affair that stays semi-formless and yet always easy to follow—a resolutely modern mix of familiar swing and challenging abstraction. Even while the drift mostly happens at a leisurely tempo, the quartet's laser-like deliberation never wavers throughout.

In that way the recording pleasantly evokes the less abrasive side of Ornette Coleman, an approach reinforced by the chordless instrumental lineup (alto and tenor saxophone, bass and drums). The drummer has changed since No Parking Any Time (QFTF, 2017), but the group's sly mood and easygoing chemistry remain intact. The leader's pair of self-penned "Complex" tracks provide peaks of energetic bop amidst valleys of slow meanderings—those spots may make a bit of a tonal clash, but listening to Janett and Rich Perry's spry unison lines is still too much fun to really complain about.

Otherwise, the session is largely about the question of just how 'free' to go. When one horn player takes off up and down the scales, the other's patient drones and Lisa Hoppe's loping bass are always ready to guide him back to the landing spot in the end. Janett and Perry can never quite seem to decide between following precise lines and wandering into looser freeform space. They continually push and pull between those modes, drifting in and out of phase like satellites in different orbits around the same planet. Somehow it always comes across adroit rather than awkward. Walking that tricky line, Complexes manages a smart appeal for free-jazz aficionados and more conventional listeners alike.

Track Listing: Creep; Minor Complex; Il Bös-ch Rumantsch; Fila Fila; Major Complex; All or Nothing at All.

Personnel: Niculin Janett: alto saxophone; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Lisa Hoppe: double bass; Claudio Strüby: drums.

Title: Complexes | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: QFTF

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