Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Nik Bartsch's Mobile at The Rubin Museum of Art

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Nik Bärtsch's Mobile
Rubin Museum Of Art
New York, NY
May 6, 2016

Having seen Nik Bärtsch's Ronin live (albeit eight years ago), listened to Continuum and read the detailed review which notes the differences between the groups, did not lessen the impact of Mobile in concert.

The venue was perfect—a small auditorium which held about three hundred, facing a raised stage. There, the Mobile quartet was arranged with Nik Bärtsch's piano stage right, the bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet of Sha center and forward, Kaspar Rast's drums center and behind with Nicolas Stocker's drums and tuned percussion stage left. All the performers wore black, making the lighting, which tracked the music, even more dramatic.

The show was scheduled to be from 7:00-8:30, and after a brief introduction, the music began, recognizably from the album. Immediately, the entire performance space changed as the interaction of the persistent unit pulse, different meters and phrase lengths moving in and out of phase, changing instrumental densities and actual harmonic movement took effect. The "groove" which deepened as the music progressed, never stopped; it would not be characterized as Ronin-like "funky," but it did make the body move. Entrancing is not quite the word for it, but astonishing might be.

The first piece actually ended, with some applause, but it was unclear if this was intended or not. In any case, the next hour (or so it seemed) was filled with continuous music as the various modules were merged. This is different than the album, which has a few seconds of silence between them, and produced an exhilarating, floating, timeless feeling that was almost out-of-body. Punctuated by shouts of "Ho!" from Bärtsch to signal changes, Mobile worked its magic.

This music is extremely precise and delicate, and yet is simultaneously full-bodied and powerful. There is absolutely nothing which is extra -every piano and reed note, every percussion sound is needed and has its place. Each performer merged into the musical organism named Mobile, while paradoxically remaining an individual who had the freedom to improvise. In this context, improvisation takes on a somewhat special meaning. Every field of intense study ends up developing a vocabulary, a lingo if you will. Bärtsch's includes such terms to describe the means used to improvise as varying modular lengths, spreading ghost note nets, soloist behaviour like animal mimicry, sound blending and swarm movements among others.

The tension between the composed module and its performance through time is perceptible and is part of the experience. While Bärtsch is clearly the leader who directs the larger structure, Sha, Rast and Stocker could be seen and heard giving and taking subtle cues throughout the performance.

Decidedly heady, and yet highly emotional and extremely moving, the music of Mobile is not soon forgotten.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery Live Reviews Nels and Alex Cline at The Jazz Bakery
by Jonathan Manning
Published: January 22, 2018
Read David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club Live Reviews David Lyttle & Andreas Varady at Bennigans Jazz Club
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival 2017
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "Mike Zito at the Iridium" Live Reviews Mike Zito at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Bray Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Bray Jazz Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 9, 2017