When the established trio of Harald Kimmig (violin), Daniel Studer (double bass) and Alfred Zimmerlin (cello) are joined by legendary avantgarde trombonist and electronics exponent George Lewis, the artist name is so unwieldy that there’s no room on the front of the CD for a title as well- so it’s probably just as well it’s an eponymous release. And the reputations of this pair of acts jammed and jamming together speaks for itself.
Across five pieces, ranging from nearly twenty minutes to just over five minutes, all recorded live in Zurich in 2018, the quartet let the energy flow, wildly at times. From the aggressive opener of first piece “Very Nice” on, there’s a vibrancy that often borders on urgency throughout. At times this is flirtation with chaos, in musical form.
The sounds in play are a mixed bag. From the string trio there is, unsurprisingly, an array of pitch-bending string notes, spontaneous plucks and bowing and scratching, of the kind that sometimes feels like foley work, attempting to describe violent real life events with strings. But the trombone and particularly the electronics certainly bring something new. Reprocessed and effected noises catch you unawares, breaking the naturalism being expressed by the strings. The result is still firmly in jazz territory, never straying into electronica, but nevertheless there’s a fascinating hybridisation going on here that throws up some unexpected results.
Like it or not, the trombone has comedy associations, and there are some moments here that are, perhaps inadvertently, a bit on the playful side- such as sixteen minutes into “Very Nice” where the strings are squeaking and the trombone is walking down the notes in a lardy fashion. But more often than not, this is music with its straight face on- as evidenced just a minute later, with the extremely tense string drama in full flow.
There are more barren sections too, like the slow landscape-like opening of “Seven Colors And Number Ten” which, with its heavily effected trombone vibrations, gradually turns into a soundtrack for an old school horror film called ‘Assault Of The Bees’. This buzzy, toothy electronic approach also infuses “Night Walk”, which again starts off in misleadingly sedate fashion before unfolding into a form of balanced cacophony. After the relative stagnancy and hiatus (mostly) in “Natura Morta”, this exemplary hour ends with a flourish with “Tactus And Tatum”, an excitable skip through a variety of different environments, both reprising previous elements and bringing in new tones- like the bizarre but captivating bubbling sounds around the 1:30 mark.
It’s hard to argue with the sheer class of this release, and the sound of four established artists whose work remains true to the meaning of avantgarde, yet also fresh and exciting.