Since German/French bassist Pascal Niggenkemper
moved to New York in 2005 he has become increasingly prominent on the contemporary scene. Alliances with Thomas Heberer
’s Clarino on Klippe
(Clean Feed, 2011), Joe Hertenstein
(Clean Feed, 2010), the cooperative polylemma
(Red Toucan, 2011), and Jean Carla Rodea’s Azares, with whom he appeared
at the 2010 Vision Festival, ensure a busy diary. Fortunately he still found time to wax Upcoming Hurricane
with an accomplished multinational cast, completed by Russian pianist Simon Nabatov
and American drummer Gerald Cleaver
Natural world metaphors come easily to mind when discussing the disc, helped not only by the suggestive title, but also the organically unfolding flow spread across the seven wholly improvised cuts. In spite of the bassist's name on the marquee, it's an egalitarian affair: no-one dominates and there are almost no solos. Cleaver comes closest with a throbbing polyrhythmic barrage to close out "Fighting the mill," but even here dark piano chords add subtle counterpoint. All three are highly attuned to one another, united in unspoken synergy, whether in delicate colloquy or in furious extremis.
Niggenkemper's wiry presence holds it all together, his subterranean rumble transmuting at times into propulsive thrum, though he is at his most individual with his expressive bow work. On piano, Nabatov wields his prodigious technique judiciously for maximum effect, with a two-handed independence reminiscent of Craig Taborn
(another frequent Cleaver collaborator), pitching sparkling runs against marching arpeggios on "Aeolus." Cleaver trades in indeterminate rustling noise for much of the time, recalling his expressionistic displays with Farmers By Nature
, but when animated, as on the title track, his drums tumble headlong alongside a quickening cymbal fizz.
Contrasting programming ensures that the band covers a wide emotional range, from the mysterious stirrings of "Pustelblume" to the impending storm and choppy density of the standout "Upcoming hurricane." In a typical change of pace, the following "Arbol de piedra" essays spare balladry, while elsewhere the contrapuntally careering "Rahonavis" precedes "Mongolfière," initially spacey before gaining in both mass and momentum, abetted by Nabatov’s locomotive left hand. Niggenkemper has carved out a very strong outing, and raises hopes that this isn’t a one-off agglomeration.