Roots And Wires
Intakt CD 060

Like Latin sounds, rock music, flutes and the electric guitar — to pick four earlier "oddities" at random — jazz music has adapted to a clutch of unexpected sounds over the years. Now the musicians featured here, plus others, have figured out how to make use of electronics and turntables.

The way to do it, of course, is to take what's produced by the needle and cartridge as another part of the mix. Perceptive musicians don't let these sounds or electronic shimmers supersede their improvisations any more than earlier jazzmen gave in to the sweet prettiness of many Tin Pan Alley melodies.

It's not surprising that the successful adaption of these new sounds come from European musicians — Swiss in this case. For with the different strands of "foreign" musics coursing through that continent for centuries, these Eurojazzers seem best to be able to accept turntable art as merely something else to literally play with.

It's also no shock that it's Koch, Schütz and Studer who work so well in this context. Together since 1990, the three already balance sequenced sounds and live-electronics with their own acoustic instruments, creating what they call Hardcore Chamber Music. Collaborations with traditional musicians from Egypt and Cuba have also been part of their agenda. This partnership on the other hand works only sporadically.

On ROOTS AND WIRES noteworthy fusion occurs on "Loop Eleven", where the sounds of a tenor saxophone matches the "scratches" from the turntable, creating a duet which dissolves into bluesy cello playing until what appears to be a banjo escapes from the intense electronic murk. "First Class Scenario" — perhaps a comment on the proceedings — is more of the same, with what sound like sine waves mixing with the clear sound of a clarinet that first complements than supersedes the electronics.

Moreover despite the co-billing, "found sound" of recorded voices and music appears only intermittently, with the only remarkable use occurring on "Dread bread". There a sampled voice first morphs into what appears to be bird songs than becomes sequenced electronics.

The problem is that that track, as well as "Notausstieg II", is that they feature Schütz and Studer creating some of the most ponderous anvil-pounding riffs this side of a Bad Company record.

That overweight is the main drawback for those who give heavy rock a wide berth. While reedist Koch uses a multitude of horn sounds to accommodate a non-jazz conception, the drummer and electric cellist appear to think that if it ain't got that swing it's gotta rock and make like Geddy Lee and Neil Peart of Rush too much of the time

Not all is lost though. In small doses this session impresses. In fairness perhaps, the three Europeans haven't yet figured out the best way to react to the DJs, who, they may see as indigenous music makers like the Egyptians and the Cubans.

Here's an idea. Next time out why not blend Swiss precision and DJ soul with some Arabic and Latin sounds? Throwing everything together may soften the rhythms and produce a really historic date.

-Ken Waxman

Tracks: 1.The background is the foreground then delirium, 2.Thai speed parade 3.First class scenario 4.Loop eleven 5.Dread bread 6.Could fun be the bright side of fear? 7. Notausstieg II 8. Tonschlaufenumarmung

Personnel; Hans Koch, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone, electronics, sequencer; Martin Schütz, electric five-string cello, cello, electronics, sequencer; Fredy Studer, drums, percussion; DJ M. Singe, turntables; DJ I-Sound, turntables