5

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live 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.

Track Listing: CD1:Modul 41_17; Modul 35; Modul 42; Modul 17; Modul 22. CD2: Modul 45; Modul 48; Modul 47; Modul 55.

Personnel: Nik Bartsch: piano, Fender Rhodes; Sha: bass clarinets, alto saxophone; Bjorn Meyer: bass; Thomy Jordi: bass (CD2#4); Kasper Rast: drums; Andi Pupato: percussion.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

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

More Articles

Read Rags And Roots CD/LP/Track Review Rags And Roots
by James Nadal
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Tangled CD/LP/Track Review Tangled
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Is It Me...? CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 25, 2017
Read 14.11.2016 CD/LP/Track Review 14.11.2016
by Nicola Negri
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read "Oaktree" CD/LP/Track Review Oaktree
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Dark Territory" CD/LP/Track Review Dark Territory
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 15, 2016
Read "Groovin'" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin'
by Jeff Winbush
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Glare of the Tiger" CD/LP/Track Review Glare of the Tiger
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2017
Read "New Focus On Song" CD/LP/Track Review New Focus On Song
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!