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Scopes: Scopes

Roger Farbey By

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Formed in 2018, Scopes comprises a group of musicians hailing from four different European countries, led by Austrian drummer Mathias Ruppnig and German bassist Tom Berkmann. Coincidentally, both leaders have collaborated with Kurt Rosenwinkel and John Hollenbeck. Ruppnig studied or participated in workshops with big jazz names including Kendrick Scott, Peter Erskine, Jimmy Cobb, John Abercrombie, Bob Brookmeyer, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Adam Nussbaum. Berkmann graduated from Manhattan School of Music in New York with a Master of Music degree, where he studied with Jay Anderson, Phil Markowitz and Dave Liebman.

The quartet is completed by French pianist Tony Tixier and Dutch alto saxophonist Ben Van Gelder. Tixier, currently living in New York, is rapidly gaining an international reputation. In 2009, he self-released Parallel Worlds and in 2012 opened for Herbie Hancock at the Jazz En Tête Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Tixier was also recently featured on Seamus Blake's Guardians Of The Heart Machine (Whirlwind, 2019). Van Gelder moved to New York when he was seventeen, studying with the likes of Guillermo Klein, Jason Moran and Lee Konitz.

The album opener "Echo Of Their Own Prejudices" is arguably its most strident track by virtue of a midway departure from its initially piano-based approach to a spotlight for Tixier's engagingly lithe synthesizer. "Chamberlain" is a lyrical outing, with Tixier's sensitive piano leading the piece followed by Van Gelder delicately tracing the melody. "Aquaponies" benefits from an enchantingly memorable alto hook that mesmerically suffuses the whole number.

Starting with an insistent yet subtle bass and drum rhythm, the serpentine "Balance" is enhanced by Tixier's sprightly synth runs and Van Gelder's exuberant alto. The breezy "Alter Ego," underpinned by Berkmann's walking bass line, is an unequivocal foot-tapper. Even on the more pastoral numbers such as "Lakeview," Ruppnig's crisp drumming makes its presence keenly yet sympathetically felt, projecting a mood of electrifying animation throughout.

This is Scopes' eponymous debut album and its release coincides with a European tour. Judging by this excellent first album, the band could well have the makings of the epithet "international super group."

Track Listing: Echo Of Their Own Prejudices; Chamberlain; Aquaponies; Balance; Whistle; Alter Ego; Lakeview; Nostalgia; Mode.

Personnel: Ben Van Gelder: alto saxophone; Tony Tixier: piano, synthesizer; Tom Berkmann: double bass; Mathias Ruppnig: drums.

Title: Scopes | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings

About Tom Berkmann and Mathias Ruppnig
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