The integration of electronics with improvised music is nothing new; from outward reaching projects including Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble to more accessible works including Dave Douglas’ Freak In , artists are exploring the sonic landscapes made possible by such marriages. Integration of electronics with new music is also not unheard of. But by wedding a trio of electronic musicians with a trio of inventive improvisers and a trio of new music performers, what Southwest German Radio (SWR) has done with New Jazz Meeting is create a new space where the possibilities of each genre are expanded, and the limitations eliminated.
The disc centers around three trios, consisting of saxophonist Steve Lacy, bassist Peter Herbert and Wolfgang Reisinger representing the improvisers; saxophonist Marcus Weiss, flautist Philippe Racine and pianist Paulo Alvares representing the new music contingent; and Lang and Christof Kurzmann on electronics and Philip Jeck on turntables. Based around four variations of electronic composer Bernhard Lang’s piece “Differenz/Wiederholung 1.2,” they perform the compositions as written and then break up into various groupings ranging from solos to duos, trios quartets and finally the entire nonet, to explore the improvisational possibilities.
The four written pieces combine jagged bursts with strangely soothing passages, all revolving around repetitive rhythmic motifs. The written pieces are interspersed through the two-disc, two-and-a-quarter hour performance that draws on the best material from the studio sessions used to develop the concept, as well as from three live performances. The CD has been sequenced to simulate the live experience, and the results are captivating.
As dissonant as it sometimes gets; as foreign as the sounds coaxed out of all instruments, both electronic and acoustic, sometimes are, the result is often oddly hypnotic and appealing. On “dw 1.2 remix 7.7,” Lacy uses multiphonics and other extended techniques to develop themes over Jeck’s lo-fi turntable sound, discarding them almost as quickly as they are presented to move onto the next thought. On “dw 1.2 remix tübingen 1.3” Kurzmann uses only electronics to create an alien vista that is still, somehow, attractive; motifs appear and disappear over rhythmic patterns that provide points of reference.
The densest of the pieces is, not surprisingly, “dw 1.2 remix karlsruhe 3.11,” which brings together the entire nonet. Still, with pounding piano, fluttering drums and bass, freely improvising winds and electronic washes, there is an inner logic; as extended as the piece becomes there is always reference to the originating pieces.
The rigidity of new music is softened by improvisation; free improvisation is provided a compositional focus; and a rhythmic and harmonic context is provided for the electronics. New Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 2002 is a daring project that successfully manages to create a new integrated concept by combining the best of three seemingly disparate forms. While not an easy listen it remains oddly engaging, and should appeal to the daring listener who is not afraid to keep an open mind.
Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone), Peter Herbert (double bass), Wolfgang Reisinger (drums), Marcus Weiss (tenor and soprano saxophones), Philippe Racine (flute), Paulo Alvares (piano), Bernhard Lang (electronics), Christof Kurzmann (electronics), Philip Jeck (turntables)
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