All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

406

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Llyria

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Nik Bärtsch's Ronin has traveled a long way since its formation in 2001, through its early albums on Ronin Rhythm Records, its signing with ECM, and the three discs that label has so far released. Mid-decade, the Swiss band was forging its reputation with a relentlessly beat-centric style which Bärtsch dubbed "Zen funk" and "ritual groove music"—a blend of minimalism and James Brown which gave P-funkster George Clinton's maxim "free your ass and your mind will follow" a new millennial spin. The beats are still present, but are tempered now by other dimensions.

The three ECM discs—Llyrìa follows Stoa (2006) and Holon (2008)—have tracked Ronin's music as, via a series of incremental changes, it has evolved into something richer in content. With Llyrìa, standalone melodic top lines—that is, melodies not generated by the layering of instruments—show signs of becoming almost as important as uplifting rhythms. And throughout the suite of tunes, Bärtsch demonstrates a deeper concern with the nuances of light and shade. The new emphases are welcome: even the most dedicated trance junkies can only surrender to repetitive rhythms, however sophisticated their execution, for a finite length of time, without being buried by them—something which Bärtsch, who intends his music as something other than narcotic, would find abhorrent.

What has remained constant throughout this evolution is Bärtsch's insistence on through-composition: practically every note Ronin plays has been written in advance, with only subtle interpretive deviations permitted to the musicians. We have to take Bärtsch's word for this, because the performances of drummer Kaspar Rast and reed player Sha, in particular, frequently sound so of-the-moment that you'd never guess they're not improvised.

The 2010 edition of Ronin's music is well described by the title of this album. The llyria is a recently discovered luminescent creature of the deep ocean. The opening track, "Modul 48," captures the picture as vividly as any hi-tech deepwater camera, as exquisite little melodic fragments drift in and out of the frame. Passages like this reoccur throughout the disc. So too, rather less frequently, do the ensemble polyrhythms of the band's first releases—"Modul 52" and "Modul 4" keep the faith and will give Ronin's longtime followers a familiar shot in the arm.

Ronin's growth has been made possible as much by the group's stability as it has by Bärtsch's inquiring aesthetic. In October 2010, the band will play its 300th hometown performance, at the Zurich club where it has maintained a Monday night residency since 2004. Such commitment, to each other and to the demands of live performance, makes for a continuing engine of change. Ronin may have traveled a long way since 2001, but it's a near certainty that the journey is far from finished.

Track Listing: Modul 48; Modul 52; Modul 55; Modul 47; Modul 53; Modul 51; Modul 49_44.

Personnel: Nik Bärtsch: piano; Sha: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Björn Meyer: bass; Kaspar Rast: drums; Andi Pupato: percussion.

Title: Llyria | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fullmoon CD/LP/Track Review
Fullmoon
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Arise! CD/LP/Track Review
Arise!
by Chris May
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Plus One CD/LP/Track Review
Plus One
by Jerome Wilson
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Never Bet The Devil Your Head CD/LP/Track Review
Never Bet The Devil Your Head
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Oscar Peterson Plays CD/LP/Track Review
Oscar Peterson Plays
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 23, 2018
Read State Of The Baritone Volume 2 CD/LP/Track Review
State Of The Baritone Volume 2
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 23, 2018
Read "Meditation Tape" CD/LP/Track Review Meditation Tape
by Samuel Stroup
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Roll On" CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Calvins Toboggan" CD/LP/Track Review Calvins Toboggan
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Far From Over" CD/LP/Track Review Far From Over
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 28, 2017
Read "Small Town" CD/LP/Track Review Small Town
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 4, 2017
Read "Not Bound" CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018