Amsterdam-based pianist Achim Kaufmann combines the fluidity of modern jazz with the extended techniques of avant-garde concert music on his latest solo album, Knives. Many of the works feature Kaufmann playing inside the piano. Besides plucking strings, he attacks the instrument's interior with a number of devices: rulers, a small hand sander, a piano tuner's wedge, and a vibraphone mallet. As can be imagined, this elicits a host of tone colors and textures, ranging from percussive to sustained, at points even including vibrato and keening overtones. "Her Hair a Dark River..." is a particularly evocative piece employing these materials. As might be expected (given its title), it's filled with tons of haunting sound effects.
Listeners who greet these types of post-Cage experiments with antipathy may be skeptical of Kaufmann's pianism, but give a listen to the workout that he gives to Herbie Nichols' "2300 Skiddoo"; you'll hear plenty of swing and a Monk-like fascination with piquant harmonies that brand his approach to the instrument as abundantly informed by jazz. Like Georg Graewe, Fred Van Hove, and John Wolf Brennan, Kaufmann is a musician who combines many disparate styles into a postmodern concoction, unrepentant in its eclecticism but impressive in its musicality.
Many of the pieces here, such as "The Last Vestiges," "Space Usually Given Over to Knives," and "Landscape Faux-naif," are brief improvisations, character pieces that present a particular textural environment (trills, cascading runs, an undulating bass ostinato, etc.) and then depart, sometimes almost before its totality has been aurally assimilated. More developed and particularly impressive is "Marche B2," which juxtaposes a post bop right hand with scampering sepulchral bass runs. Even this simply fades away without true resolution, but it is a wild ride while it lasts. Next time out, it would be interesting to hear Kaufmann create larger structures in his idiosyncratic musical language, as its rich components could certainly thrive in more expansive compositions. That said, Knives is an excellent sampling of a diverse array of sonic adventures and post-tonal bagatelles.
Track Listing: 1- The Last Vestiges, 2- A Dreg of Red, 3- Your Smile a Stone, Shattering My Breath, 4- Dips and Proclivities, 5- More Than a Simple Shoreline, 6- Landscape Faux-naif, 7- Sheets Surfacing Like an Ocean, 8- Space Usually Given Over to Knives, 9-Her Hair a Dark River, 10- No Trace of Food, or Grief, 11- Four Small Rooms, 12- Marche B2,13- 2300 Skiddoo, 14- Heavy Lace, 15- Of Water Plants and Figurines, 16- Sand Melody, 17- Windows Composing Trees, 18- Beyond Which the Blue Trembles.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.