154

Mik Keusen's Blau: Nalu

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Mik Keusen's Blau: Nalu With the sudden appearance of pianist Nik Bartsch and Stoa (ECM, 2006), a new musical paradigm emerged from Switzerland: a rigorous musical aesthetic combining post-Steve Reichian minimalism with funk and cross-cultural tinges of Japan and Indonesia. Bärtsch's music actually dates back to the early part of the millennium, but it was ECM's attention that gave the "Zen Funk / Ritual Groove Music" of Bärtsch's Ronin the opportunity to gain international acclaim, both critical and popular.

Ongoing Monday night gigs at Zürich's Montags club have given Bärtsch a forum to refine and expand his concept, but he's not the only one exploring its broader purview. Ronin bass clarinetist/alto saxophonist Sha explored a more lyrical side of the equation with his Banryu debut, Chessboxing Volume One (Ronin Rhythm, 2008), while pianist Mik Keusen (a Banryu alum until its disbanding earlier this year), released his own Blau (Tonus) three years prior. With Nalu, Keusen's Blau functions, in many ways, parallel to Ronin and Banryu, but with its own angle.

Sha is also a member of Blau, and while his contributions are so spare and understated as to raise questions about their value, his rich tone and careful constructions— spending more time in economical ensemble counterpoint to Keusen's arpeggiated pianism rather than blowing hard or heavy— add plenty to Blau's overall sound. Like Banryu, Blau also includes a female voice, but unlike Sha's singer, bassist Anna Trauffer's vocals are wordless, at times meshing so seamlessly with Sha as to create a new, singular voice. Trauffer's double-bass, and its dual potential as a pizzicato and arco instrument, adds its own specificity to Blau, contrasting Ronin's Björn Meyer's or Banryu's Thomas Tavano—electric bassists, both.

Like Bärtsch and Sha, Keusen's compositions are simply numbered, with the addition of a single decimal point implying the possibility of variants on larger themes, as on Blau, where a medley of "9.0/9/1" was followed, later, by "9.2."

With all the apparent similarities how does Blau stack up against Ronin and Banryu? Compositionally Nalu is less knotty and more direct. Less concerned with interlocking parts, percussionist Fredrik Gille plays a more obvious support role, less crisply defined than Ronin's decisive rhythm team of drummer Kaspar Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato. There's a stronger sense of lyricism on "26.0" and, on "23.0," an almost songlike vibe in its second half, where Sha takes a rare solo spot over its relentless 4/4 pulse and Trauffer's layered vocals. Keusen's playing feels a tad more reckless than Bärtsch's architecturally organized approach, though it's still largely integrated within the pianist's compositional roadmaps.

Bärtsch fans will find much to like with Keusen's Blau. The expanding axis of this Swiss aesthetic speaks against surface-layer monolithism and more to its patiently unfolding potential. Born of Ronin, perhaps, Nalu still speaks with its own voice, with melodism an equal partner to reduction and minimalist-informed repetition, compelling grooves and an improvisational layer embedded so seamlessly as to be largely indiscernible from Keusen's engaging structures.


Track Listing: 25.0; 16.0; 26.0; 21.0; 12.0; 23.0; 22.0.

Personnel: Mik Keusen: piano; Sha: bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Anna Trauffer: double-bass, voice; Fredrik Gille: percussion.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Tonus-Music


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Hasta Karma" CD/LP/Track Review Hasta Karma
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 29, 2016
Read "Tie the Stone to the Wheel" CD/LP/Track Review Tie the Stone to the Wheel
by John Eyles
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Sedimental You" CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 29, 2016
Read "Breaking Point" CD/LP/Track Review Breaking Point
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 10, 2016
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 30, 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!

Buy it!