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Bassist Christian Hartmann and pianist Urban Mäder seep into an introspective mood on two lengthy selections containing multiple movements on this intriguing recording. While Hartmann exorcises demons through his bass with elongated arco strides, Mäder punctuates the heavy atmosphere with stabbing, broken notes. Rules, however, are made to be broken, and the two suddenly awaken to an aggressive world where the ringing and highly reverberant tones of Mäder’s prepared piano with its object-laden strings join in a race with repetitive rhythmic bass lines to establish an atmosphere of excitement.
Mäder’s touch is emphatic and percussive, and his work with the prepared piano emphasizes these characteristics. He evokes the tonality of a harpsichord on the initial suite. Mäder takes on free improvisation with a pugilistic attitude. Heavily punctuated chords of unstructured yet resolved phraseology dominate the penetrating ambiance. This, in turn, forces Hartmann into the same arena. His bass playing initially takes a wistful turn, but he soon abandons that approach and becomes a forceful proponent for authoritative speech.
Each movement finds the duo altering its staccato attack to incorporate differing stress and emphasis. The music, however, sustains its robust nature owing partly to the clarity and dynamic range of the recording.
The two suites were recorded about a year apart. The second one finds Mäder on acoustic piano, where he sustains a very different ambiance compared to the prepared piano suite. This five-part selection owes its debt to the liberated and freely improvised genre of jazz. The two artists gallop off into an interactive musical world where each develops elongated solos that become intrinsically connected through the collective improvisations.
There is nothing dainty about the union of Hartmann and Mäder. They attack silence and turn sparse sequences into full-bodied examples of ringing demonstrativeness. While space is a factor during several of the movements, it is soon enveloped in richly textured and highly sonorous waves of sound that echo with sustained intensity.
Although the attribute of starkness often associated with European improvisers is present during this performance, the immediacy of the message from Hartmann and Mäder thrusts their efforts into the foreground, where it takes a dominant hold. They play extremely challenging music requiring a high tolerance for abstract concepts, but the result is quite satisfying for the adventurous souls who make the effort .
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.