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In Greek Mythology, the River Styx was said to separate the world of the living from the world of the dead. With this in mind, it be assumed that drummer Bastian Weinhold's debut might be a drab journey filled with gloom, but that's not the case. A dark, aggressive side certainly comes out in a lot of places, but the rhythmic energy and excitement never waver and River Styx bursts forth with passion at every turn.
The German-born, New York-based drummer enlisted a crew of up-and-coming stars in the making, with bassist Linda Oh the most well-known name on the list, and this quintet doesn't disappoint. In some places, Weinhold wastes no time, immediately taking off with some dexterous drumming that drives the band ("EsSeeE") to great heights. At other times, the entire band creates episodes of varying styles within a single piece. "The Tune" is a travelogue that winds its way through various locales, starting with a mysterious piano introduction, moving through a stormy section of free jazz, spotlighting Oh's stunning solo skills and pianist Pascal Le Boeuf's feisty finger work, and arriving at a section of music that's propelled by Weinhold's organic, odd-metered grooves.
Guitarist Nils Weinhold and tenor saxophonist Adam Larson are at the top of the sound pyramid throughout, and they prove to be a compelling frontline pair. They develop intriguing, angular lines and devilish, darting runs ("EsSeeE"), but they also assist in creating a beacon of musical hope with their calming influence on "The Last Line."
Weinhold himself proves to be a crafty timekeeper and dazzling soloist. He can be bombastically brilliant ("Punkberry") and technically dazzling at times ("EsSeeE"), but his playing ultimately serves the music. One example of his team-player attitude is his ability to craft dynamic arcs ("Kungafuh"), creating a lightly pulsating undercurrent with Oh and building to a boil before returning to gentler waters. Perhaps the Greeks wouldn't have feared the River Styx so much if they knew a trip along its waters could be as rewarding a journey as this.
Track Listing: The Tune; Punkberry; Kungafuh; EsSeeE; The Last Line; Space; River Styx.
Personnel: Adam Larson: tenor saxophone; Pascal Le Boeuf: piano, rhodes; Nils Weinhold: guitar; Linda Oh: bass; Bastian Weinhold: drums.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.