6

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch and his group Ronin joined the ECM Records roster in 2006 with their label debut, Stoa. Since then they have produced a new ECM set every two years, with Holon (2008), Llyría (2010), and now their first recorded-in-concert set for the label, the double-disc Live.

Ronin's music has been called Zen Funk, ritual groove music, and mechanistic minimalism. Live proves the group is just as tight onstage as it is in the studio. This is a band that gets into a groove and won't let go, setting up—with extended repetition of three, four or five-note riffs and layered rhythms—huge tension, released (finally) by explosive, rock energy bursts that settle back into new momentums, new repeated motifs, new layers.

The collective band sound has a sharp edge— Bärtsch's piano often has a metallic sheen. Bassist Bjørn Meyer locks hard into sometimes loping, sometimes hyper-tight runs. And Sha, the band's reedman—who, in a more standard ensemble might be the lead melodic voice—sets up deep low moans on the contrabass clarinet that sound like the atomic power source of a starship approaching a leap across interstellar space, while drummer Kasper Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato drive the sub-nuclear energy sources serving the ship's mechanical components.

Not that there aren't moment's a tranquility and introspection. "Modul 45" features moments of pianistic delicacy, interspersed with percussive bombast behind the anguished wailing of Sha's alto saxophone, capped off with gathering, end-of-the-world seismic drum rumble.

"Modul 35," heard originally on Stoa, is one of the group's most distinctive tunes. Opening here with the same crisp, lonely, percussive tinkling, it then surges with a burst of collective energy, riding the rubbery bounce and pop of Meyer's powerhouse bass, and then shifting into what sounds like an immersion into a dark, dystopian urban world full of danger and dread, before the band gels back into a rhythmic momentum.

Live was recorded around the world, in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Wien, Lorrach, Liepzig, Mannheim, Gateshead and Salzau, between 2009 and 2011. Different venues, the same tight precision. "Modul 41_17" opens the recording, with a lively bass solo. It's fitting intro, because Meyer is moving on, handing Ronin's bass chair to relative newcomer Thomy Jordi, who is featured on the last tune of set, "Modul 55." There is a sense of calmness, an almost pastoral serenity to the sound on this single offering, as Nik Bärtsch's Ronin transitions from a ten-year Meyer tenure, to bring in the component of a fresh perspective.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
  • Live by Dan McClenaghan
  • Live by John Kelman
Read more articles

Warning: mysql_fetch_object(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL result resource in /home/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php on line 39

More Articles

Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Bright Yellow with Bass CD/LP/Track Review Bright Yellow with Bass
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 18, 2017
Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "For Those About To Jazz / Rock We Salute You" CD/LP/Track Review For Those About To Jazz / Rock We Salute You
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "The Elements" CD/LP/Track Review The Elements
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "Tangents" CD/LP/Track Review Tangents
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 28, 2017
Read "Third Stage of Elegance" CD/LP/Track Review Third Stage of Elegance
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Vol. 1 - This Is My Swamp" CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1 - This Is My Swamp
by Paul Naser
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "GIO Sevens" CD/LP/Track Review GIO Sevens
by Duncan Heining
Published: September 2, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.