Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

7

The Scrambling Ex: The Scrambling Ex

Dave Wayne By

Sign in to view read count
Deftly juggling twisted harmonic sequences, free improvised passages, sweet and simple jazz melodies, and stop-on-a-dime rhythmic convolutions, The Scrambling Ex nods at all sorts of musical reference points without aping anyone in particular. An equal collaboration between multi- reed player Peter Van Huffel, guitarist Andreas Willers, and percussionist Oliver Steidle (who's since been replaced by the remarkable American drummer Devin Gray), the trio relentlessly pushes the outside of the musical envelope throughout their eponymous debut album. Willers, a German-born guitarist who's been recording all sorts of interesting music—from funky fusion to free improv and all points between—since 1981, is a remarkably multi-faceted musician whose sheer versatility is front and center on this bass-less trio outing. Six of the nine compositions here are his, and they're a diverse bunch, indeed. Van Huffel, originally from Canada but now resident in Berlin, chipped in the other three pieces. The Scrambling Ex represents a rich, musically fertile middle ground between Van Huffel's other musical concerns: the raging, rocking free-jazz-infused frenzy of Gorilla Mask, the intricate and intimate acoustic trio BoomCrane, and the atmospheric classically- informed inventions of House of Mirrors.

The Scrambling Ex opens with Van Huffel's "Beast," an episodic piece in which an alien-sounding soundscape is abruptly subverted by a tricky theme which then leads into an intense improv section: Van Huffel's broiling- hot alto way out in front. The musical variety never lets up as the trio explore a dizzying array of musical color fields that sit more-or- less in a triangle with vertices at free improvisation, math rock, and modern jazz. Willers' metallic guitar solo provides mega-thrills on "Case of Need," while Van Huffel's "Tangent" (a track that also appears on Van Huffel's remarkable quartet album Like The Rusted Key, Fresh Sound New Talent, 2010) uses a similar frenetic energy in a much more directed way. Here, the result is not unlike a bass- less, saxophone-dominated take on the work of math- rockers Don Caballero. Coming from the same general sonic territory, Willer's "Flegenfloet" is a bit straighter; ironically ripping a page out of Van Huffel's own Gorilla Mask playbook. Fans of rock excess will dig the fuzz bass here. More familiar modern jazz references abound on the jaunty—but no less energetic—"Princess" and "Groom and Bride," both driven by Steidle's excellent drumming.

The trio probes the other end of the sound spectrum on Van Huffel's brooding, atmospheric "Happenstance" and Willers' "Sonic Finder." Here, energy is gathered inward into a slowly coalescing, highly- concentrated tension that never really releases. Here, the trio's sound evokes the early 1970s recordings of Terje Rypdal and Edward Vesala for the ECM label, and its lesser-known JAPO subsidiary. The tension gets released in a big way on Willers' "Adventures in Nalepaland." Based on a vaguely Mahavishnu-esque guitar riff that's given a slightly Eastern European twist by Van Huffel's keening clarinet. Steidle's aggressive, over- the-top drums eventually pull Willers and Van Huffel into the realms of sludge-rock.

The Scrambling Ex is not short on musical surprises and unexpected transitions. This is modern, free-leaning jazz lovingly polluted with a vast variety of non-jazz influences, though not in a calculated or contrived way.

Track Listing: Beast; Case Of Need; Happenstance; Princess; Tangent; Adventures In Nalepaland; Groom & Bride; Sonic Finder; Flegenfoet.

Personnel: Peter Van Huffel: alto saxophone, clarinet; Oliver Steidle: drums, percussion, selected sounds; Andreas Willers: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass (9).

Title: The Scrambling Ex | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: FMR Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Day to Day Album Reviews
Day to Day
By Paul Naser
May 24, 2019
Read Theia Album Reviews
Theia
By Jim Worsley
May 24, 2019
Read Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You Album Reviews
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
By Dan McClenaghan
May 24, 2019
Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019