Samuel Blaser Quartet: As The Sea (2012)
The whole of some musical outfits is greater than its separate parts. The Berlin-based, Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser's Quartet is one of these outfits, comprised of resourceful musicians with strong personalities, distinct approaches that together complement the strengths of this band but also pushes it into newer terrains.
Blaser is conservatory trained and university educated, has a perfect-pitch sound on the trombone and rich musical vision that encompasses anything between composer Richard Wagner's grandiose operas, classical Indian music and saxophone giant John Coltrane. Self-taught French guitarist Marc Ducret has developed a highly original musical language, intuitive, genre-binding and totally imaginative and fellow Swiss bassist Bänz Oester is one of the most prominent bassists in the European scene and close collaborator of percussionist Pierre Favre and drummer Gerry Hemingway. American drummer Gerald Cleaver's propulsive and colorful playing frames Blaser's sophisticated rhythmical ideas.
The second album of the quartet, (after Boundless, Hatology, 2011), was recorded live in Belgium after a few intensive tours. These tours solidified the trust and camaraderie among the quartet members, enabling Blaser to challenge it with more complex compositions. As The Sea was written as a four-part suite that bridges between spare, free improvised segments and written parts, building the tension patiently, until the last two dramatic and stormy parts.
The first part begins with intriguing sonic searches. First it is Oester's strumming on the bass that introduces the piece. Later Blaser, Cleaver and Ducret join, all investigating a dark palette of sounds, slowly morphing these fragmented sounds into a tight and nuanced texture. The piece culminates first a fiery duet between Ducret and Cleaver and later with a powerful duet between Blaser and Cleaver, both highly intensive. Blaser even quotes a short segment from Wagner's opera "Siegfried" in this duet.
The second piece is more structured, compositionally and rhythmically. Blaser and Ducret articulate its theme and soon Ducret abstracts this captivating theme with dense, twisted lines followed by Blaser's more melodic and angular solo, both against Cleaver's wise, constant-changing polyrhythmical patterns, till the quartet reunites for a tight and energetic interplay. The piece is concluded with a breathtaking solo from Cleaver.
The spare beginning of the third piece sound as if all four musicians polishing their instruments in preparation for the mid-piece exhilarating eruption. Cleaver's thunderous beats anchor the intensifying energy, highlighted by Blaser's nervous multiphonics and Ducret's brief and spiky lines. The same level of energy is kept in the last piece, again, more structured by texture than the former one and inspired by the Indian Tihi rhythmic concept that is used widely in classical Indian music. Blaser and Ducret are pushing to different angles, while Oester and Cleaver are expanding its rhythmical base.
Blaser's quartet is a powerful and profound outfit that only begins to explore its great potential.
Track Listing: As The Sea Part I; As Th Sea Part II; As The Sea Part III; As The Sea Part IV.
Personnel: Samuel Blaser: trombone; Marc Ducret: guitar; Bänz Oester: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.