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Christoph Irniger - Pilgrim: Italian Circus Story

Glenn Astarita By

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Young Swiss saxophonist, composer Christoph Irniger is one to watch. His blossoming stature on the European jazz scene is partly due to his invigorating and meticulous compositional approach. With this second incarnation of the Pilgrim band, he continues his methodical and climactic buildups; chock full of emotive sentiment, often formulating an incandescent standpoint, toggling between and peaceful and harrowing textures. Here, guitarist Dave Gisler generates some high heat while adding a jazz fusion dimension to these works that also skirt avant-garde style expressionism. Irniger also injects punchy rock and peppy grooves into the mix, escalated by his zinging exchanges with the soloists. Many of these works are structured with ascending choruses, offset by the saxophonist's robust or wistful phrasings.

The frontline engages in feisty exchanges as the musical canon infers an Italian Circus Story,prompting the listener to devise his or her own cinematic escapism, as the program incorporates aspects of a topsy-turvy storyline amid the visual arts perspective. With lissome theme-building and an expressionistic free-form fusion gameplan on the title track, the band delves into renegade, risk-taking forays via foreboding buildups and drummer Michi Stulz' foot-stomping beats. However, Irniger steers the quintet towards an ethereal backdrop with his pensive lines atop pianist Stefan Aeby's sweeping chord voicings on the subdued piece, "Back in the Game." In other regions of sound, the saxophonist operates as though he's climbing a stepladder, rising to an apex, only to direct a crash and burn sequence or a Latin flavored breakout. On "Mondays," the musicians execute zigzagging currents and splintered developments, yet switch gears by delving into a cool and loping jazz vamp, producing a surfeit of contrasts along the way. Nonetheless, Pilgrim is a high-achieving unit, as the end results prove to be immensely satisfying.

Track Listing: Jake the Snake; Man Like; Italian Circus Story; Back in the Game; Entering the Concert Hall; Mondays; Body Dope.

Personnel: Christoph Irniger: tenor saxophone; Dave Gisler: guitar; Stefan Aeby: piano; Raffaele Bossard: bass; Michi Stulz: drums.

Title: Italian Circus Story | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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