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Jazz is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. The impact of modern electronics has provided vast new musical realms capable of almost innumerable variations. And like the acoustic bass during the middle of the twentieth century, the evolution of the drum kit has also fundamentally changed the music, both compositionally and improvisationally, in just about every style of jazz over the past quarter century.
And with the continual evolution of new ways for artists to both distribute and profit from their music, more jazz is being released by more people in more diverse geographic locations, allowing once isolated or separated regions of the world to experience music created elsewhere. All of this is reflected in One Eyed Horse, an album of expansive imaginative breadth from Poland's GOWI Records.
The actual sound here is a strange and unique mix of aural alchemy. Greg Osby's complex, angular alto saxophone works the range of techniques from mathematical runs to melodic balladry. Franz Hautzinger's trumpet transverses a similar realm as Cuong Vu's, but with a more robust sound. Both working in and around electronics and sampled backdrops that in some instances resemble UNKLE's atmospherics and at other times Aphex Twin's manic Drukqs.
Finally, there is Jacek Kochan, whose maniacal drumming abilities share space alongside Jim Black and Bobby Previte in the continuum, and who is the impetus of the whole project. Fulfilling multiple roles here including composer, arranger, drummer, and performer on other instruments, including sampler, he has created a sound quite unlike anything most listeners have heard before. (Interestingly, all the samples are entirely constructed of snippets of his previous recording projects with John Abercrombie, Marc Copland, Kenny Wheeler, and others.)
Osby and Hautzinger often alternate from track to track, but everyone shines throughout this meticulously designed program. Although each piece is its own entity, together they inform something greater, coupled by Kochan's drumming and well-designed samples. Osby's alto, ranging from restrained to acute, works every angle of this acoustic-electric hybrid sound, and it is interesting to hear him in such a setting given his focus on documenting acoustic jazz over the last decade or so.
Here he is pliable, molding to the surroundings, his solos sounding as concise as anything he has put on record, but in a more open and exploratory mode. Along with numerous other tracks, "Vanity Garage Sale is a good example of how he fills this playground of noise with inventive and interesting lines, never sounding lost for ideas. Similarly, Hautzinger seems at home here as well, utilizing a well-rounded, clean attack capable of well articulated smears, whispering, and other techniques throughout utilizing the full range of his instrument.
Abums like this often avoid simple or reductive reviews. One Eyed Horse challenges translation simply by virtue of its innovative nature, and it will be interesting to see how it sounds in another five or ten yearsand where the various elements in the mix lead next. This arresting album is an achievement by Kochan, Hautzinger, and Osby.
Track Listing: Beyond the Obvious; Rift; Fear No More; Simoom; Not Just Yet; Time Warp to Let; Drop;
Sun Doesn't Know She Is a Star; Vanity Garage Sale; Professional Patriots; Private
Negotiations; One Eyed Horse; Twenty Seven Names of a Man; Moscow Boogie; What the
Dentists Dream of.
Personnel: Greg Osby: alto saxophone; Franz Hautzinger: quarter tone trumpet; Jacek Kochan: drums,
laptop, sampler, bass, keyboards, voice.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.