Pianist Uwe Oberg didn't follow a straight and narrow path when putting together this formidable European trio. There is no bassist, and Rudi Mahall performs solely on clarinets, as most listeners would expect a soprano saxophone to be the mainstay of any band that pays homage to the late, modern-era jazz pioneer Steve Lacy. More importantly, the band, including drummer Michael Griener, mold Lacy's works into their signature group-focused voice, yet duly adhere to his core rhythmic and melodic fundamentals, used as vehicles for expansion amid the ever-present improvisational metrics.
The instrumentalists effectively reimagine these works that span a multitude of emotive implications, framed on Thelonious Monk's strong influence on Lacy's compositional pen and so on. These pieces abide by the trio's freedom of communications mantra, yet they also enact a delicate balance that pays off. Whether the band is generating quaint or daintily renditions of the material or partaking in some serious rebel-rousing, each piece stands on its own.
Teeming with counterpoint, reverse-engineering processes and coyly articulated diversions, Mahall and Oberg can mirror a typical Lacy phrase but largely inject their own musical nomenclature into the big picture. So, they veer off, reinvent, then circle back around to execute the primary themes with tight-knit unison phrasings, intense soloing jaunts and even dish out a walking blues motif on "Blues for Aida." The artists spin "Ladies" with razor-sharp unison choruses, amped by Uwe's harmonics, segueing into "Jazz ab 40" where the artists mix it up, accentuated by Griener's broadly textured cymbals hits and the pianist's massive block chords. Hence, the primary focus is hot n' heavy improv.
The final track "Troubles" offers yet another compelling perspective, as the band merges a blithe unison groove with linear movements and nods to old-timey jazz, topped off by Mahall's wily solo spot. Overall, the musicians exercise an often difficult to attain balance as serious chops, pungent arrangements and sonorous melodic content produce an irrefutable fun-factor, instilled with all the necessary ingredients.
Deadline; Cliches; Trickles; Field (Spring); Blues for Aida; Ladies; Jazz ab 40;
Uwe Oberg: piano; Rudi Mahall: clarinets; Michael Greiner: drums.