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Izabella Effenberg Trio: IZA

Ian Patterson By

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The vibraphone seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance of late, with any number of outstanding exponents of the instrument popping up in all corners of the world. Izabella Effenberg may be a new name for many, but the Polish vibraphonist has already collaborated with the likes of Tony Lakatos, Magnus Ostrom, Nippy Noya and Nicole Johanntgen. Based on Iza—her second outing as leader, it mightn't be long before Effenberg becomes better known internationally, for there's much to admire in these original compositions, interpreted with equal parts elegant control and passionate freedom by her first-rate trio.

The duality of Effenberg's background in classical percussion and jazz fairly constantly informs the music, though it's with the snappy, tango-esque "Herr Doktor Doktor" that Effenberg first nails her improvisational colors to the mast. Pianist Jochen Pfister's vamps and drummer Pawel Czubatka's hand-driven rhythms provide the twin pistons as Effenberg unfurls a solo of flowing melodicism. Vibraphone and piano combine in another punchy vamp that underpins Czubatka's feisty response, on this impressive opening number.

Chamber intimacy colors the intro to "Fuga"—one of several tracks with underlying baroque currents—though the delicate vibraphone and piano opening soon gives way to a bobbing rhythm that propels Effenberg's assertive, yet lyrically refined soloing. The vibraphonist has chops in abundance—her emotionally charged solo on the beautiful, slow-burning "Tesknota" and dizzyingly fast runs on the otherwise measured compass of "So Ist Das" provide undoubted album highlights. Such freewheeling improvisations, however, are sparingly rationed, with Effenberg tipping the trio's balance in favour of shifting compositional dynamics and emotional shading.

On "Night Voyage," the trio's urgent, repeating rhythmic motifs bookend Effenberg's impressionistic, unaccompanied excursion. There's a nod to Bach—via Jacques Loussier—on the mellifluous "The Meaning of Life," the stately counterpoint of vibraphone and piano unravelling seductively to usher in gently bluesy solos from Pfister and Effenberg that give the song wings. A Hispanic air subtly infuses "El Beso de Despedida," with Pfister's ruminations filtering flamenco blues. The episodic "Eis Schetterung" embraces punchy unison lines, stuttering melodic and rhythmic passages and a feverishly fast, playful motif that would make a great soundtrack to a computer game.

Three shorter pieces sit back-to-back—a tryptic of curious juxtapositions: Czubatka sits out the lovely "Nocturne," a delicate, Chopin-esque reflection between vibraphone and piano, replete with emotion; the aptly named "Miniature" sees Effenberg stretch out within a simple, mantra-like rhythmic frame, her mallets gathering speed in a whirlwind finish; the pianissimo, blues-tinged "Awakening," which is over all too soon, caresses like a lullaby.

There's greater ebb and flow to "Kanon," in tempi, from composed to freer lines, and in the melodies, which morph back and forth between smooth-flowing and jaunty, staccato emphasis. The album proper—there are a couple of bonus tracks—finishes with guest Agnes Lepp's spoken mediation "Szukam"; in Polish, szukam means to search for, to quest, and seems to refer, almost like an incantation, to Effenberg's ongoing search for the muse that fires her artistic expression.

Effenberg has certainly found her muse on Iza, an absorbing personal statement that never once overstays its seventy-odd minutes. Broad ranging in sentiment and style, and with enough to satisfy thrill seekers, Iza is an accomplished calling card from a fine composer and soloist, one deserving of a much wider audience.

Track Listing: Herr Doktor; Fuga; Tesknota; Night Voyage; So Ist Das; Meaning of Life; El Beso de Despedidia; Eis Schuetterung; Nocturne; Miniature; Awakening; Kanon; Szukam; El Suerte; On.

Personnel: Izabella Effenberg: vibraphones; crotales; array mbira; Jochen Pfister: piano; drums, marimbula: Pawel Czubatka; Agnes Lepp: Agnes Lepp: vocals (13).

Title: IZA | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Unit Records

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