Pascal Schumacher Quartet: Here We Gong

Bruce Lindsay By

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Here We Gong is the Pascal Schumacher Quartet's fourth album since its formation in 2002. A richly-rewarding album full of inventive melodies, tremendous playing, warmth and good humor, it establishes the Quartet at the forefront of the burgeoning European scene and Schumacher as one of the finest vibes players in contemporary jazz.

The Quartet's instrumental line-up—with vibes, gongs, drums, piano and glockenspiel to the fore—puts the emphasis squarely on percussion, but the differing materials used in these instruments ensure that the tone palette is varied and colorful and the emphasis on acoustic rather than electronic sounds gives an organic feel to the music. Schumacher, a native of Luxembourg, comes to jazz from the perspective of European classical music. This, too, helps to give the Quartet's sound a distinctiveness that sets it apart from most vibes-led jazz ensembles.

Three short Quartet compositions—"Gongs and Roses," "Gong With The Wind" and "Here We Gong"—are interspersed between the longer tunes. The first two are pleasant, almost ambient pieces, while "Here We Gong" is funkier and more upbeat. The Quartet also performs a cover of "Sing," by the Scottish rock band Travis—a pretty song, well-performed, but as a jazz instrumental it doesn't match the standard of the band members' own tunes.

Schumacher's compositions have an elegance and beauty all their own. "If There Are No Other Words" is a moving ballad. Bassist Christophe Devisscher and pianist Franz von Chossy play with admirable restraint and Schumacher's vibes are light and delicate, a performance that references the Modern Jazz Quartet's considered, conservatoire style. "Elegy With a Touch of Irony"—dedicated to the Quartet's previous pianist, Jef Neve—is beautifully melodic and enlivened by fine solos from von Chossy and Schumacher. "White Surface" segues seamlessly into ..."glace, casse." The two tunes have immediate impact, the inherent tension in von Chossy's piano and Schumacher's vibes resolving as Devisscher's repetitive bass figure takes over.

Von Chossy's "Kicking the Leaves" is more upbeat: a lively, positive, tune with stunning ensemble playing. Drummer Jens Duppe contributes "Peanut Butter and Jelly"; more beautiful and delicate than its title suggests, the tune finds Schumacher's vibes sounding particularly crystalline. "Bright Wings," also by von Chossy, makes effective but sparing use of electronic effects to add atmosphere—there's a slight resemblance here to the work of English vibes player Jim Hart, while Devisscher's bass playing is particularly notable. Devisscher's own composition, "Oy," is a more fragmented, aggressive, affair with echoes of Thelonious Monk—an inventive contrast to most of the album.

A jazz quartet that combines four talented soloists is uncommon enough: a quartet where every member combines top flight musicianship with compositional talent is as rare as hen's teeth. The Pascal Schumacher Quartet manages both combinations with ease. Here We Gong is a masterful recording from a virtuoso quartet—an album that brims with enthusiasm and originality.

Track Listing: White Surface; ...glace, casse; Kicking the Leaves; If There Are No Other Words; Gongs and Roses; Peanut Butter and Jelly; Gong With The Wind; Sing; Bright Wings; Here We Gong; In Transit; Oy; Elegy With a Touch of Irony.

Personnel: Pascal Schumacher: vibes, glockenspiel; Franz von Chossy: piano; Christophe Devisscher: bass, gong; Jens Duppe: drums, gong, glockenspiel.

Title: Here We Gong | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Enja Records


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