The presence of bassist Joe Fonda guarantees an outward bound listen which still has some foothold in conventional tonality. On Relight, he joins a multinational threesome completed by German pianist Uwe Oberg and Berlin-based Spanish drummer Lucia Martinez, which stakes its claim at the confluence of jazz and free improvisation, in a concert from the 2019 Just Music Festival in Wiesbaden. Fonda buys into the collective ethos, shared by Oberg and Martínez, which places as much emphasis on percussive textures as on melody across the course of six on-the-fly inventions.
With his rhythmic motifs, snagged pitches and streams of clipped notes, Oberg hints at the influence of Alexander von Schlippenbach and, by inference, Cecil Taylor; but that is not the only tool in his kit as, on occasion, he also delves under the bonnet as well as stretching out in boppish phrases, particularly at faster tempos. Martínez offers a panoply of metallic knocks and rattles as well as odd rasping timbres to augment her tumbling cadences. And Fonda is responsive to all of it, whether leading the harmonic movement on breathy fluttering flute, upping the ante with moaning and careening arco swipes, or stepping forward with nimble corkscrewing pizzicato.
Among the high points is Martínez' alternately tuneful and pulsing drum introduction to "Almost Two," which takes flight when Fonda begins to weave his raw-boned figures into the flow and Oberg enters in spiky reeling interplay. Also of note are the angular exchanges at the culmination of the initially understated "Their Cheeks Glowed" which recur during the building momentum of "The Sharp Side Of It," the longest track, and which are very much the trio's strong suit. Then to round off, the short "Triple Relish" closes the album in upbeat style with Oberg's jabbing chords, Fonda slapping the body of his bass, and Martínez' matching clang combining in an almost funky interchange.
Their Cheeks Glowed; Lighter Than Before; Almost Two; The Sharp Side Of It; Relight Years; Triple Relish.
Uwe Oberg: piano; Joe Fonda: bass, flute; Lucía Martínez: drums.
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