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Maroney / Ilgenfritz / Niescier / Drury: Mind Games

Eyal Hareuveni By

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This quartet blurs the borders between orthodox and unorthodox forms of playing, between cerebral, intriguing music making and playful, harmonic articulations, and between sonic explorations of timbral variations, colors and shades, and organic, fluid textures. All these contradictions are blended into a mysterious kaleidoscope of nuanced details, a musical universe of a unique quartet with a highly distinctive voice and identity.

The four musicians are known for their left-off-center attitudes and expanded musical lexicons. Pianist Denman Maroney perfects his hyperpiano playing, employing copper bars, rubber blocks, brass bowls, wood dowels, and other objects on the strings in order to change string length and therefore pitch. Drummer Andrew Drury uses bamboo skewer friction, pressure and positioning of bells and vibrations resulting from bowing a dustpan and other objects in order to manipulate the harmonic characteristics of drum membranes. Bassist James Ilgenfritz describes his approach of playing , "as an archaeologist, examining rarefied aspects of the instrument's sonic palette to confound the status quo," and Polish-German saxophonist Angelika Niescier's intense playing explores complex melodic patterns and multilayered minimalism.

The compositions flirt with melodic and harmonic foundations on Maroney's infectious, Monk-like "One Off or Two" and Ilgenfritz' "Social Hypochondria," or with more open-ended, experimental soundscapes on the group improvisations "Perplexia," and the spare, otherworldly "Innervista" and "Green St.," but never surrender fully to any one direction. There is a constant shifting of roles, tension building and release, varied dynamics, and sonic collisions and timbral research, with impressive supportive interplay and focus. The process of creating these shifting, dissolving textures is as important as the final outline of the compositions.

Niescier's epic, 18-minutes finale, "Warum Bist Du Gekommen?," begins with a long introduction of contemplative and nuanced sonic explorations by Maroney, Ilgenfritz and Drury. When the commanding and elegant Niescier joins, she turns these light explorations into an emotional, minimalist ballad.

Mind Games balances beautifully between impressive, thoughtful compositions and imaginative improvisations.

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