One of the most appealing aspects in jazz is the interplay among musicians in a group. There is usually a continuous musical conversation occurring during any given session, which adds an element of spontaneity. Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz
is concentrating on this concept of conversation in his upcoming releases, beginning with Conversation #1: Condensed
Arbenz has established himself as one of the foremost drummers in Europe. He has recorded and performed with numerous artists during his career, including Kirk Lightsey
, Bennie Maupin
and Dave Liebman
. He also worked for years as part of the jazz trio VEIN
. Along with his career in jazz, Arbenz has been involved with several classical projects. Conversation #1: Condensed
is the beginning of a 12-album project, which will feature completely different musicians for each recording. For this album, Arbenz is joined by trumpeter Hermon Mehari
and guitarist Nelson Veras
. While the combination of drums, guitar and trumpet might seem like an unusual combination, the players have a rapport that creates some impressive musical interactions.
The music included features a range of different styles ranging from avant-garde to straight ahead. The overall sound of the music, which was influenced by players like Paul Motian
and Don Cherry
, consists of mostly original compositions. There are, however, covers of Antonio Carlos Jobim
's "Olha Maria," Ornette Coleman
's "Race Face," and Eddie Harris
' "Freedom Jazz Dance."
The keyword for this album is "condensed," but condensed shouldn't be confused with limited. There are plenty of excellent performances, but there is also a sense of space and control. As Miles Davis
once noted, "it's not the notes you play that matter; it's the notes you don't play," and there is a musical depth here that goes beyond what's written on the sheet music. As Arbenz points out in the liner notes, "condensed musical thoughts only make sense if the original thoughts are exciting and interesting enough to be condensed."
As the title suggests, the concept of conversation is important as well. The songs feature all three players engaging in a musical conversation. This is probably best exemplified with the song "Let's Try This Again." The song starts off with the three instruments sounding like people in a group talking at the same time. As the song progresses, though, the independent voices come together in a collaborative conversation.
Many of the songs on Conversation #1: Condensed
have a sound somewhat similar to classic ECM recordings. There is a cerebral quality to the music that is dreamlike in places and upbeat in others. The sound here, however, is more modern than experimental. This is an accessible album that showcases the three musicians working together seamlessly.
Arbenz is a talented and imaginative musician who is just taking the first step in an ambitious musical journey with Conversation #1: Condensed
. If this is an indication of things to come, the rest of the series should definitely be conversations worth having.
Boarding The Beat; Let's Try Again; Groove A; Olha Maria; In Medias Res; Vibing With Mr. Feldman; Race Face: Dedicated To The Quintessence; Circle; Freedom Jazz Dance.