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Santos Silva/Wodrascka/Meaas Svendsen/Berre, "Rasengan!"

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cover imageConsidering Rasengan! is a documentation of the first performance this pan-European free jazz quartet ever had together, the balance of unity and chaos here is exceptionally well done.  The two pieces that make up this 36 minute performance drift between what sounds like perfect synergy between the players to some all out messes of sound, both of which I have always felt is essential for this style of music.  Which, of course, means this is a very impressive record.

Barefoot Records

The four performers on this record come from all parts of Europe:  Portuguese trumpet player Susana Santos Silva (Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos and Coreto Porta-Jazz), French pianist Christine Wodrascka works in a multitude of styles and projects, bassist Christan Meaas Svendsen hails from Norway and collaborates with a multitude of performers (and is a member of Large Unit), and finally percussionist Håkon Berre now resides in Denmark and has collaborated with the likes of Peter Brötzmann.

Rasengan! is a performance comprised of two lengthy pieces, the lengthy "Sweatshirt" and the slightly more succinct (and more bizarre) "Death by Candiru".  Of the two, "Sweatshirt" is the more conventional, but that is only relatively speaking.  Immediately Meaas Svendsen and Berre create an odd rhythmic foundation via bent strings and clacking sticks, neither of which sounds obviously like the instruments the two are actually playing.  Soon Santos Silva's horn and Wodrascka's piano skitter in, initially loose and chaotic.  The two take turns becoming the focus, either in the form of overt, tense piano or pained, raw trumpet.  A bit less than half way through the piece's 25 minute duration a bit of calm appears, with just the piano leaving a lingering tension.  The sound eventually builds back up, the horn and piano sprawling all over in ebbs and floes of chaos and calm.  The performance finally builds to an appropriately dramatic, loud conclusion.

While "Sweatshirt" may not sound like the most conventional work at first, it is the more dissonant turn that the quartet take on the jovially titled "Death by Candiru" that make it seem like the lighter work.  At first subtle, eventually the rhythm section of bass and drum construct a slow, uncomfortable rhythm complete with weird animalistic scratching noises with piano peppered throughout.  Bits of what sound like compressed air and non-instrument like noises appear, making for a more bizarre yet extremely cinematic feel.  As before, the trumpet and piano trade off taking the focus, but here in a more chaotic and off-kilter form.  In a great contrast to the conclusion of "Sweatshirt", here the performance seems to fall apart in a brilliant way, rather than coming to an epic, bombastic close.

There is a definite looseness throughout Rasengan! that may be fully intentional or a function of the four performers improvising together for the first time ever, but that adds to the record, rather than detracts from it.  They clearly work well together and play off of each other wonderfully, but those moments where the sound becomes a bit disjointed and chaotic are some of the best parts of the record.  I usually prefer jazz-based music when things get weird and dissonant, and this band does that extremely well.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 21 August 2016 23:11  


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