Medium Euphoria

Really great set of modernist jazz from Jaz, Drevo on their album Cycles and Lullabies (PALOMAR RECORDS 56). This trio seems to comprise two Slovenian players, the double bass player Boris Janje (who sent us a copy from Ljubljana), the tenor saxman Cene Resnik (who also plays in Acamar Trio, Trojnik, Mahakaruna Quartet, Orkester Brez Meja, and many of his own groups), and the Italian cellist Giovanni Maier. The sound they make appeals to me enormously. Spartan, spare, open…you can bet your last pair of metal twigs on that, if you’re a sculptor…Alberto Giacometti in sound, is what I’m trying to get at. Two lower-register stringed instruments give you that fix of mournful musical sighing and sloughing in a way that nothing else can deliver.

Also I like the tempo and motion of their playing – none of that steamy, hell-for-leather “energy” jazz for them, and just about every track proceeds with melancholic steps towards a grey afternoon on a granite mountain top. While the tune they call ‘Medium Euphoria’ may seem to go against that grain, with its “leaping” string effects and its faint attempts at hearty whooping from the reed section, it’s a sad dance they execute in this euphoric state, the street is empty and it’s midnight, and all they can do it pick up debris from the pavement before an audience of ash-cans under the moonlight. What else do we know? Not a whole lot, as no press release included (for which I am grateful), except that it is live recordings made in Kranj in 2018 under the watchful ears of Iztok Zupan, the engineer who also mixed and mastered the sesh.

I also sense a whiff of avant-garde composition, knowledge of same, creeping in when I see a title like ‘Microtonal Serenade’ and another one called simply ‘Cycles’. The latter could almost have been a word used by Steve Reich for a composition, while the music the trio play on this 7:56-er does indeed strive to follow some pre-planned logic on its pathway; we might detect a hidden structure in these sloughs and sighs. As to the former, title-wise there’s an imaginary meeting between Ligeti, Gorecki, and George Gershwin in the starlit heavens as they compose a serenade to the glories of the microtone, and musically Janje and Maier are sawing like microscopic demons to make this dream of romantic semi-tones and harmonics come true. There’s also ‘Weak Response’, nine mins which are suffused with almost painful emotions (and indecision associated with same); ‘Strange Lullaby’, not a sleepy-time piece at all but another hopster characterised by spirited but futile dance-steps and twirls, still (like the entire album) smitten with this nocturnal vibe, a restless night, a night before.

Very taken with this fine item….true, it’s just about possible the monotony may wear down a non-combatant after a while (the same frequencies, the same tones, the same notes), but I like a record that’s not too eager to please the audience, and the naked honesty of this simple music is plain-spoken and bracing. Very good. From 31 May 2019.

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