Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile – Continuum

continuum(ECM)

The Swiss pianist and composer writes some of the most distinctive music in jazz, whether the band is his electric bass driven Ronin, or this purely acoustic quartet with two drummers  – Kasper Rast and Nicolas Stocker – and reed-player Sha on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. For this album Mobile is sometimes augmented by a string quintet.

As with all Bartsch’s music, the titles are restricted to Moduls of different numbers. The zen funk feel of Ronin might have a more classical timbre in Mobile, especially when the strings are brought into play, but there is still often that restrained but incorrigable danceability in this music.

Just as the titles end up being unmemorable – was it Modul 18 or Modul 5 that really stood out? – so the music blends from one track to another, like many constituent movements of an hour-long work.

It’s very much Marmite music; I know it leaves some of my jazz friends completely cold whereas I have always responded to it enthusiastically. I suppose it is the way such precision of playing, such discipline and mantra-like meditation can result in such infectiously funky rhythms and sensuous overlaying timbres that pleases me. It delights my ears while prompting my body to dance about the room while it is playing, finding new internal rhythms and accents as the music endlessly changes while appearing to remain on cyclical repeat.

Continuum is unlikely to change the minds of those who don’t get Nik Bärtsch but it expands the scope of his music for the wider enjoyment of those who do.

Here is Modul 4 in live performance (don’t you just dig that contrabass clarinet?):



Categories: CD review

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