REVIEW: ‘Entendre’ – Nik Bärtsch

WITH THAT INVITATION to simply ‘hear’, Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch releases solo album Entendre – an intimate performance that bears a particular attraction.

Over the last fifteen years, the predominant outlet for Bärtsch’s distinctive, cyclical music has been his Ronin project – an ensemble with a core of piano, bass clarinet/alto saxophone, bass, drums and percussion that interprets his signature shifting metres, phrases and grooves, each composition identified only as a numeric ‘Modul’. The crafting of what can sometimes deceptively appear as digital processes, but are in fact acoustic, physical manifestations of Bärtsch’s writing, have long been a fascination through ECM albums such as Stoa (2006), Llyrìa (2010) and Awase (2018) – and this ‘minimalist’ approach can find a comparison with the music of Terry Riley or even La Monte Young.

For Entendre, recorded in the spacious surroundings of the Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Bärtsch sits alone with a Steinway grand, laying bare the wireframes and stratifications of his polymetric ‘ritual groove music’ (described more as templates, rather than prescribed compositions). At face value, it’s difficult to imagine how the complexity and fullness of the Ronin sound world can be presented this way; might it be just a pale reflection? As these absorbing fifty minutes or so prove, honed after Bärtsch’s 2017 solo piano tour experiences in Teheran, Cairo, Alexandria, Kolkata and Delhi, certainly not.

The pianist opens with a single, syncopated note, from which the widening mesmerism of Modul 58_12 unfurls, combining themes from the Awase and Continuum releases. Bärtsch’s deftness in maintaining and expanding on a bubbling, minor-key motif is immediately apparent, while complementing or combining with pealing and pirouetting melodies, adding depth through sustained string shimmers. The momentum is infectious, characteristically repetitive, while never lacking colour or contrasting oases of invention. There are muted hints of the blues in searching Modul 55, the piano’s ‘prepared’ chord strikes and tremors awakening these eight minutes with chromatic, Bartokian/Debussyian mystery; and Bärtsch’s metrical discipline is fascinating, both in the sparser passages and the heavier, internally-effected episodes.

Gradually-shifting layers in Modul 26’s delicate yet chattering dance (reminiscent of Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’) climb towards the light – and, at some fourteen minutes’ duration, how Bärtsch holds together the framework of its increasingly busy saturation is quite extraordinary before percussively descending the keyboard to its conclusion. A suggestion of symphonic Glass is palpable in the sinister, rhythmically inertial merry-go-round of Modul 13 as tintinnabular discords intersperse its hypnotic progression; and reinterpreted from 2016’s Continuum, the harmonic glow from Bärtsch’s impetuous, hard-hitting technique leads the way into Modul 5’s ferocious gallop. To close, Déjà-vu, Vienna (modelled on the live album’s Modul 42) winds down with the tolling reverence of Arvo Pärt, albeit with this pianist‘s inner scrapes and dampened bass motifs.

In Ronin’s output, there’s energy, dialogue and an amalgamation of individual creativity (which prompted my return to their back catalogue). Bärtsch’s singular focus at the piano is similarly engaging, for different reasons, while still communicating exhilaration, pace, intensity and serenity. Remarkably, everything heard is created with precision and minus post-production embellishment or multi-tracking, offering an immersive and deeply rewarding personal connection with each listener.

Released in the UK (more than once delayed by Brexit issues) on 2 April 2021 and available from ECM Records and Proper Music.

 

Nik Bärtsch piano

nikbaertsch.com

ECM Records – ECM 2703 (2021)

RECENT LISTENING: January 2020 (2)

Portrait: Reflections on Belonging – Byron Wallen
Byron Wallen, Rob Luft, Paul Michael, Rod Youngs, Richard ‘Olatunde’ Baker
with Plumcroft Primary School
Release date: 17 February 2020 (Twilight Jaguar Recordings)
byronwallen.co.uk

Black and White, Vol. 1 – Julia Biel
Julia Biel – solo piano
Release date: 28 February 2020 (Rokit Records/Ankhtone Records)
juliabiel.bandcamp.com

Multiverse – Jim Hart & Ivo Neame
Jim Hart, Ivo Neame
Release date: 21 February 2020 (Edition Records)
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Rainbow Over Kolonaki – Talinka
Tali Atzmon, Gilad Atzmon, Jenny Bliss, Yaron Stavi
with Ross Stanley, Billy Pod
Release date: 25 January 2020 (Fanfare Records / Birnam)
birnamcdshop.com / gilad.online

Broken Circles – Jure Pukl
Jure Pukl, Charles Altura, Joel Ross, Matt Brewer, Kweku Sumbry
Release date: 21 February 2020 (Whirlwind Recordings)
jurepukl.bandcamp.com

Imploding Stars – Hervé Perez
Hervé Perez
Release date: 3 May 2019 (Focused Silence)
focusedsilence.bandcamp.com

REVIEW: Elliot Galvin – ‘Live in Paris at Fondation Louis Vuitton’

ONE MAN, ONE PIANO … and an inspiring venue for the singular genius of Elliot Galvin – the elegant yet angular architecture of Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, and its steel-and-mirror interior (Inside the horizon by Olafur Eliasson), ingeniously integrated into the album-cover graphics of this live, solo recording.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News …

Released on 24 January 2020 at Edition Records and available as CD or download from Bandcamp

Video: Time and Everything

 

Elliot Galvin solo piano

elliotgalvin.com

Edition Records – EDN1146 (2020)

RECENT LISTENING: January 2020 (1)

Live In Paris at Fondation Louis Vuitton – Elliot Galvin
Elliot Galvin – solo piano
Release date: 24 January 2020 (Edition Records)
elliotgalvin.bandcamp.com

Going Down The Well – MoonMot
Dee Byrne, Simon Petermann, Cath Roberts, Oli Kuster, Seth Bennett, Johnny Hunter
Release date: 14 February 2020 (Unit Records)
moonmot.bandcamp.com

four forty one – Will Vinson
Will Vinson, Sullivan Fortner, Tigran Hamasyan, Gerald Clayton, Fred Hersch, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Matt Brewer, Matt Penman, Rick Rosato, Larry Grenadier, Obed Calvaire, Billy Hart, Eric Harland, Clarence Penn, Jochen Rueckert  
Release date: 31 January 2020 (Whirlwind Recordings)
willvinson.bandcamp.com

– The Gaz Hughes Sextet plays Art Blakey
Gaz Hughes, Alan Barnes, Bruce Adams, Dean Masser, Andrzej Baranek, Ed Harrison
Release date: 1 February 2020
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Ascent – Pablo Held
Pablo Held, Robert Landfermann, Jonas Burgwinkel, Nelson Veras with Veronika Morscher, Jeremy Viner
Release date: 7 February 2020 (Edition Records)
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Paradox – Andrés Thor
Andrés Thor, Agnar Már Magnússon, Orlando Le Fleming, Ari Hoenig
Release date: 5 April 2019 (Dimma)
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REVIEW: ‘Near and Now’ – Gwilym Simcock

IT WOULD BE EASY to imagine likely lyrical influences on the style of Gwilym Simcock, such as Keith Jarrett and John Taylor – and there are specific clues in the dedicatees of every work on this, his second solo piano release for the ACT Music label. But one distinction is his innate ability to groove dynamically and expansively; so much so that the likes of Keith Emerson, Bruce Hornsby or Patrick Moraz might also be included in a list as long as his keyboard reach.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 26 April 2019 and available from ACT Music, Jazz CDsAmazon, iTunes, etc.

 

Gwilym Simcock Steinway B piano

gwilymsimcock.com

ACT Music – ACT 9883-2 (2019)

REVIEW: ‘Northern Migrations’ – Francesco Turrisi

Francesco Turrisi_300px

THE NAME of pianist Francesco Turrisi has graced many a fine recording. As well as collaborating with artists including saxophonist Dave Liebman and vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Maria Pia de Vito, he has produced a number of his own albums as leader (2014’s Grigio especially memorable) and is a mainstay of Christina Pluhar’s visionary early music ensemble L’Arpeggiata.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 2 April 2018 and available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp.

 

Francesco Turrisi piano, accordion, frame drum

francescoturrisi.com

Taquin Records / TAQCD004 (2018)