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It is refreshing to hear a free jazz improvising group that doesn't abandon meter and melody for the goal of spontaneous music making. For percussionist Heinz Geisser, performing improvised music doesn't require he throw the figurative baby out with the bath water. The dude abides.
Like the Collective 4tet he established in the 1990s with bassist William Parker, Ensemble 5 is both a free jazz vehicle and a quartet, yes, a quartet. Geisser, a conservatory trained classical guitarist turned self-taught drummer is the fomenter of this outfit that includes bassist Fridolin Blumer, Reto Staub (piano), and Robert Morgenthaler (trombone). The '5' indicates these four often perform with a guest artist, as we are told in the liner notes, prior to this studio session they had returned from a tour of Japan. The 5 also symbolizes the synergistic resonance of four players engaged in the creation of something new.
The blundering walk of the opening track "Layers" flows into a floodplain of stacked notes: piano runs, trombone blasts, and deep bass palpitations. Geisser oversees the affair with the batter and scuttle of his drum kit. The ensemble excels at the cavalier musical comment that often comes in unsuspected moments. Their keen listening affords this nonchalance, either in the minimalist improvisation of "Out Of Bounds" or the hand-claps and shouts of "Mother Earth," where the quartet occupies a blues demeanor bursting with conspicuous shenanigans. The title track develops in an organic and coherent, yet unstructured gambol of note churning energy, each player pushing the animation. The freedom Ensemble 5 exhibits a freedom to make music, real music.
Track Listing: Layers; Out Of Bounds; For Good; Mother Earth; The Summary Of 4; Ecgoes; Here And Now;
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.