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Sputnik3: Orbits

Karl Ackermann By

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Yet another outstanding piano trio makes its debut with Orbits. The Netherlands based group Sputnik3 owes its name to a philosophy of musical exploration inspired by that famous Russian satellite. The classically trained pianist Loran Witteveen, bassist Stefan Lievestro and Belgian native Raf Vertessen on drums, deftly work their way through Vertessen's complex compositions, each layering on their individual ideas to create a program that is very fresh and different.

At the outset, "What About You" draws comparison to the more acoustic side of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, with their percussive, rock-fueled treatment. "Array" is a fine example of Vertessen's through-composed writing as it moves from a slow, pensive opening to a pop melody and on to a more rock-influenced conclusion. "MRI" combines melody and abstraction as Witteveen's notes rapidly cascading around the lyrical anchor of Lievestro's deep, propulsive bass.

In "Brains," "Andromeda" and "Towell of Powell" we have compositions that employ odd meters and changing tempos that seem to effortlessly find their way back to common ground. Sputnik3—and Witteveen, in particular—convey their classical affinity on "Skizz" as the piece maneuvers through traditional and avant-garde passages. By comparison, "Spleen" is a bop romp, and the closest Sputnik3 comes to a fully structured composition. More typical of Orbits is the very loosely arranged "Hit & Run" and the darkly lyrical "Farewell of Siam" which closes the album.

Witteveen and Lievestro have plenty of solo opportunities while Vertessen is more focused on knitting together and balancing the many layers in each composition. The individual contributions of the trio resonate with hollow tones and gently lurching momentum. The music is challenging but accessible and the rhythmic elucidations and idiosyncratic phrasing make the transformation between a simply enjoyable set to a truly unique collection.

Track Listing: What About You; Array; Brains; MRI; Skizz; Spleen; Andromeda; Towel of Powell; Hit & Run; Farewell of Siam.

Personnel: Raf Vertessen: drums, compositions; Loran Witteveen: piano; Stefan Lievestro: acoustic bass.

Title: Orbits | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Mainland Records

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