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The Pascal Niggenkemper Trio is one that covers a lot of ground, and they deserve praise for that. But the trouble is that a distinct musical identity only emerges infrequently despite the fact that all three players are clearly well versed in the territory they map out.
Of the three of them drummer/pianist Tyshawn Sorey is perhaps the best known name, and any project he's involved in cannot be dismissed lightly. In this instance however the music is often marked by a kind of reticence that might have the effect of keeping the listener at a distance. Niggenkemper's "Poeme dans l'obscurite II" is an example of this where for all of the singularity of the musical landscape, the impact is minimal. Jimmy Giuffre might be as pertinent a name to drop as any with reference to this piece, especially in view of his preoccupation with Western art music as much as anything closer to the improvised music continuum. Sorey's "The Day After Tomorrow" gets closer to a point in terms of its passing evocation of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble with sounds both tempered and untempered melding in a fashion which suggests the matter of notes on paper is fairly negligible in terms of the music's realisation.
"I Am Surprised" is underscored by a heavy measure of restraint but then this is a group that doesn't deal in overt emotionalism. On soprano sax Robin Verheyendoesn't possess a strikingly original sound but his approach is right in keeping with that of his musical cohorts. The momentum of the piece is generated collectively as opposed to the input of any given player, with the music consequently emerging as a three way conversation, rife with all the notions of equality that implies.
When the group does blow as such it's with a playful spirit, as on "Rush Hour in the Bathtub" where the dance is that of equals, with Torey showing what a powerfully effective drummer he can be and the leader taking care of things at the bottom end. Verheyen is on soprano again on this one and perhaps because of the nature of the piece, his musical personality emerges more clearly.
"Poeme dans l'obscurite I" unsurprisingly predates the mood of its later reading, with a notable degree of overlap between the two pieces. There is however little that's compelling about the music's indeterminate progress for all of the atmospheres the trio teases out.
Track Listing: Brothers; Rush Hour in the Bathtub; Poeme dans l'obscurite I; Yesterday; Today; Tomorrow; The Day After Tomorrow; I Am Surprised; Roger; Feuervogel; Poeme dans l'obscurite II.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.