Spawn of Speed
Intakt CD 067

Saxophone, bass and drum trios have been thick on the ground at least since Sonny Rollins recorded A NIGHT AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD in 1957. But substituting brass for the reed, and/or a guitar or piano for the bass doesn't seem to work as well. Evan as powerful a soloist as veteran trombonist Roswell Rudd wasn't able to breathe life into recordings featuring the same instrumentation as this disc.

So why does Zoom loom where other's efforts went boom to doom? Simple chemistry one would suppose. Swiss drummer-leader Lucas Niggli, who wrote all but two of the tunes has already worked with folks as diverse as British postrock guitarist Fred Frith, lyrical Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and in Steamboat Switzerland, usually described as an avant-hard core trio. Swiss guitarist Philipp Schaufelberger, slides back and forth between understated mainstream sounds and a rockier exterior, while German trombonist Nils Wogram — the real find of this disc — is part of that Teutonic "outside" sackbut lineage that includes Albert Mangelsdorff and the Bauer brothers.

On "Light Night", for instance, with its cartoon-like, stop-and-start theme, Wogram indulges in a little throat singing along with valve work when it comes time for his unaccompanied solo. That is after he's executed runs so speedily that they almost slide into bop 'bone territory. Earlier, on "Superblues", his plunger mute work shows that the ghost of Tricky Sam Nanton must have possessed a few good Germans as well as Yanks. At 1 minute, 49 second, "Poems & Theorems III: No Noodle", has a title that's practically longer than the tune, yet it not only allows the trombonist to launch a fusillade of bass notes, but also underscores the teamwork of all three musicians.

Schaufelberger's light tone comes to the fore on semi-Balkan dances such as "Hoax" or the light jig part of "Poems & Theorems V: Sch!" Yet that tune and others such as "Blue & Grey" prove that weightlifter-powered heavy guitar riffs can be added to concoction if needed.

While all this is going on, Niggli appears to be having the time of his life. Assertive only where he has to be, and never indulging in empty displays, he tries to nudge the songs along from the rear with nimble rhythmic inventions. Consider the title tune, for instance, which appears to morph from rock-inflection to free and back again, and which is alive with percussion emphasis. Or ponder his mini-solo display on "Lost", which is all gongs, cymbals and sticks.

Other sessions, usually of piano, bass and drums, have been dubbed "the art of the trio", but this session gives that title a new currency with different instruments.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Oxygène Beats 2. Superblues 3. Spawn of Speed 4. Poems & Theorems I: Brain Ballad 5. Hoax 6. Light Night 7. Blue & Grey 8. Poems & Theorems II: Alma 9. Evergreen 10. Poems & Theorems III: No Noodle 11. Poems & Theorems IV: Peace 12. Lost 13. Poems & Theorems V: Sch!

Personnel: Nils Wogram (trombone); Philipp Schaufelberger (guitar); Lucas Niggli (drums, percussion)