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Niko Schuable: On The Other Hand

C. Michael Bailey By

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In A Silent Way. Niko Schuable's On The Other Hand would have never been possible with out Miles Davis' excursion into what would be called Jazz-Rock Fusion. This music is not my cup of tea. When I first heard Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, I could not help wondering why such a fine bassist as Scott LaFaro would play such silly noise. I think the same of late-period Coltrane also. But I am one small voice and many colleagues do not agree with me. What qualifies me to provide criticism for music I do not care for is the hope of informing the public, particularly that public who likes this brand of jazz, of its presence.

All the Young Dudes. Niko Schuable is a 36 year old Australian cum German drummer who has performed throughout Australia and Europe. On this date, he heads a quintet composed of fellow transplanted and naturalized Australians Paul Grabowsky on piano, Stephen Grant on brass, Chris Bekker on bass, and Ren Walters on guitar. Grant is the youngest at 28 years old and Walter the oldest at 44. This combo represents a young crowd who have some very definite ideas about avant-garde jazz. This music is out-of-focus, in-your-face, blended-scotch-on-your-breath belligerent. The bass and guitar are electric and the piano and brass, acoustic (no gimmicks).

Use of Space. There are striking contrasts about this recording. The first thing that jumped out at me was that there were several 45 rpm-length pieces on the disc. Six of the 12 compositions (all originals) are less than 3:00 minutes long. This music tends to be loosely arranged and performed and in the hands of less discreet musicians would have disintegrated into meaningless noodlings. But, on the whole, Schuable reigns in his group, heading these typical excesses off at the pass. All of the pieces can be characterized as possessing a great deal of open space between loosely composed and arranged heads and solos. Schuable employs rock backbeats throughout. This very much reminds me of Bitches Brew and music after, only with much better sound and recording. I found no outstanding centerpiece to the disc, though "So What If?" is a clever tip-of-the-hat to you know who.

To Each His Own. I have listened to this disc many more times than I typically do preparing reviews. I went back and listened to a good deal of post In a Silent Way Miles and I still cannot get next to this music. I am slowly growing into it; but I am not there yet. This disc is for anyone who likes their jazz, "angular, assertive, [and] badly behaved...", to quote Gramophone critic Roger Thomas. Me, I prefer the more straight-ahead stuff.

Ariadne auf Naxos Redux. All things considered, Naxos is off to a famous start with their first two rounds of releases on Naxos Jazz. I agree with Gramophone 's Roger Thomas when he said of this second wave of Naxos Jazz releases, "...a retail price of [$5.99] for beautifully recorded original material once again returns me to the view that there's simply no good reason for not buying all four or these discs." The other discs in this second generation of releases are the Umo Jazz Orchestra, Umo Jazz Orchestra ; James Zollar, Soaring with Bird ; and Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, Look To The East (all reviewed this month in these pages).


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