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Tobias Delius / Olie Brice / Mark Sanders: Somersaults

John Sharpe By

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Any lineup which contains reedman Tobias Delius deserves attention. Born in England to an Argentinean father and a German mother, Delius was a longtime staple of the adventurous Amsterdam scene before his relocation to Berlin in 2007, though he's still a fixture with the ICP Orchestra. On Somersaults, he teams up with the talented British rhythm tandem of bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders, who also helm the wonderful Riverloam Trio with Polish reedman Mikolaj Trzaska. As a threesome they specialize in a conversational brand of low key free jazz that veers off at tangents depending on individual whim.

Inevitably Delius' unconventional style exerts a major influence. He revels in trills, overtones, muffled asides, vocalized mutters and wavering cries. His light airy lines seem to be assembled from a series of sometimes unrelated outbursts which don't necessarily act as developmental material. However the trio nonetheless convinces as an egalitarian unit in that each player affects the direction taken. Sanders ably achieves motion without sacrificing tone and color, while Brice conducts a constant counterpoint to the saxophonist. They still maintain their jazz roots in terms of language and roles, but stretch them as far as possible without breaking the mould.

Each of the three cuts from this 2014 studio session dips into the same well, starting with brief colloquial gestures and evolving organically from there. The expansive 31-minute plus "like a creature let loose in a room" provides the fullest example of the group's range. One notable passage occurs 23 minutes in as Brice muscular pizzicato stakes out the foregrounds, answered by Sanders' rumbling toms and Delius' skew whiff clarinet groans in a pulsing stop/start cavalcade. It's the perfect illustration of one of the things that makes the band so captivating: the unpredictability of where Delius and his colleagues will go and how they will respond to each other's promptings. And isn't that what jazz is all about?

Track Listing: "Travel all day on trains and bring a lot of books"; "bones shake like sticks"; "like a creature let loose in a room".

Personnel: Tobias Delius: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Olie Brice: double bass; Mark Sanders: drums.

Title: Somersaults | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Two Rivers Records


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