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Roby Glod / Roberta Piket / Mark Tokar / Klaus Kugel: Op Der Schmelz Live

Eyal Hareuveni By

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This pan-European-American collective quartet, named after the Op Der Schmelz venue in Luxemburg (where this album was recorded), focuses in transforming intuitively detailed sonic moments into balanced movements, full of surprises and risk- taking. The quartet is comprised of four experienced improvisers—Luxemburg-based saxophonist Roby Glod, New Yorker pianist Roberta Piket, Ukrainian bassist Mark Tokar and Köln-based drummer Klaus Kugel- -who share emphatic interplay, a discursive approach and natural intimacy.

All the pieces begin in a conventional manner with a simple theme, but then all is opened up; anything can happen. These continuous pieces are developed as a long suite; each enriches the sonic range of the quartet and solidifies its rapport. "Dredger of Pig Rolls" revolves around the engaging and unforced intimacy of Glod and Piket, embraced by Tokar's contrapuntal articulations and Kugel's lightly propulsive foundation, all channeled through this distinct quartet's sound. The melancholic "Lviv," written by Kugel after the Ukrainian city where Tokar was born, features emotional, spare solos by Glod and Tokar, both emphasizing the yearning for an innocent bond with Tokar's hometown. "Budamo, Hay!" (a Ukrainian toast) moves from a complex duet, featuring Glod's serpentine flights (on soprano sax) and Kugel's increasingly pronounced cymbal rides, to an intense and full-blown quartet eruption, with another impressive solo from Tokar, both pizzicato and cpn arco. "Nazar," a lyrical chamber jazz piece, highlights Glod's commanding and distinctive tone (now on alto sax), and reflective delicately articulated responses from his band mates. Only on the long, title track does the quartet choose to structure itself out of abstract timbral searches, exploring such unconventional aspects of their instruments as plucking the piano wires, bowing the cymbals and blowing the sax after moving its mouthpiece. These brief explorations are organically translated into an emphatic, immediate flow of ideas and associations, lending this intense piece a profound and colorful texture. The finale, "Still Alive" is a free, heartfelt play on Ukraine's national anthem, once again demonstrating the manner in which quartet follows its impulses and employs its imaginative vocabulary in order to form surprising pieces.

An exceptional quartet.

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