Melodic ease, harmonic subtlety and an intriguingly dispersed approach to compositional structure make up the winning trinity of this enjoyable debut recording by German guitarist and composer Philipp Schiepek
. Most impressively, these aspects belong to the qualities one would expect a 24-year young jazz guitarist to have mastered the least at this point in their career. But Schiepek's hard work at his craft and the many years of experience with a variety of groups, as well as the German Jazzorchestra Bundesjugendorchester
, have clearly paid off and made an insightful and versatile guitarist of him. On Golem Dance
he has assembled a team of experienced musicians to help him juggle a rich set of modern jazz and post-bop influenced writing.
"All and More" kicks off the album with an adequate introduction to the quartet. The understated melody of the tune is presented by Schiepek's earthy guitar tone, before saxophonist Seamus Blake
joins in unison. Henning Sieverts doesn't hesitate for long and takes the wheel with some extensive phrases on double bass. But no matter whose turn it is to solo, Schiepek's slightly unconventional comping is able to grab the listener's attention without being too intrusive; while guiding the respective melodic protagonist, his playing furthermore adds an additional melodic dimension to the song.
On pieces such as "Ian" or "Up," the band lets the groove speak for itself and the rhythmical drive dominate the harmonic pace. The former is more monotonously tempered when it comes to the progressions and motifs, while "Up" writes the bebop chapter of the album with swing, speed and Blake and Schiepek at the top of their game. "Flou" finds the band starting off united and, piece by piece, pulled apart during the course of the song. First through-composed and then increasingly free, the instruments are temporarily held together merely by the shadow of a motif, before the partially chromatic and dissonant sounding melody signals the reunion.
The musicians leave one another the room to breathe, which the almost exclusively original compositions demand. The wrong cast of sidemen would have had a hard time delivering a set that incorporates as many challenging dynamic elements as these pieces do, but at no point does any doubt arise that this quartet gets along just fine.
"12 Raindrops" demonstrates that there is no need for a change of pace in order to transform a light swing to a hard bop attitude, while "Family Affair" is the ballad centrepiece of the album and, in referring to the title name, seems to point out that they are, in fact, rarely of a simple nature. "The Poet" and "Even Harder" continue in a dynamically alternating fashion. Appropriately titled, the first is a romantic ballad with vocal sax lines at its center, and "Even harder" isn't quite as hard as one might expect, but reveals a cheeky New Orleans-influenced street-band demeanor. The live-cuts (recorded at Unterfahrt in Munich, Germany) only confirm that there were no illegal tricks involved in the studio recording. Quite the opposite: This just might sound even better live.