While it seems counterintuitive to begin an album review by discussing the liner notes, Brian Morton's approach is spot on. Music like this, steeped in history but brimming with quiet instantaneous innovation, should be explored in terms of its details in smart context, which is exactly what he does. He'll isolate a blues lick, rendering it the dual reference and signpost it certainly is, thereby micro-historicizing one fraught moment from these brilliant quartet performances by trumpeter Marco von Orelli, reedsman Tommy Meier, bassist Luca Sisera and drummer Sheldon Suter, and well he should. The group charges and roils, but relaxing in the post-Miles fashion is just as integral to the game.
There is detail a-plenty in which to revel and luxuriate. Listen to Sisera's first note and subsequent octaves on "Forbidden Fruits" to get a flavor of his exquisite tone and for a recording to match. Yet, what good would detail be if not in the proper context, established as Sisera's solo flows with understated ease into von Orelli's wistful melody, first in hushed reverence and then swinging as Suder's susurrating cymbals raise the tension. It all builds in energy and mystery only to be subverted by a pause, a tempo change and a slow return to relaxed swing, loping infectiously into von Orelli's solo.
There are so many historical connotations in each moment of this set of concert recordings that to catalog them would be futile at best. Those Ornette Coleman piano-less groups certainly provide a timbral backdrop, but the melodies touch everything from "Nardis" to "Freedom Jazz Dance" and so much inbetween. The quartet can whisper, as already demonstrated, but this lion also roars. Sample "Wittgenstein" for some bringing of the proverbial noise, and I'm sure that no better examples of Meier's bluesy scronk exist on record.
When all the detail's been absorbed and all the deep historical scores settled, these four musicians can lay down a groove — pardon a shallow dive into the vernacular — like nobody's business. If you don't go walking away from "AKA" with a spring in your step and a smile stretching what Jack Kerouac so delicately called a skull cover, part of you has already expired. Sure, bass and clarinet sound like one instrument as von Orelli's muted trumpet and whatever Suter's hitting ride atop them with the assurance of mastery, but they're all right there in that deep pocket. A set of music like this, that affords a smile, a tear and insight as deep, singular and complex as the music, is to be welcomed.
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