Fabian Gisler

Backyard Poets
hatOLOGY 645

By Ken Waxman

Designed to showcase the versatility of Fabian Gisler’s mixed Swiss-German quartet, this set of 10 originals may provide a different conclusion than the understated Swiss time-keeper imagined.

His resonating rhythmic sense is admirable – and he indubitably proves that floating minimalist strokes can push the beat without effort. Plus saxophonist Hendrik Walsdorff and pianist Colin Vallon impress when negotiating solos that are as much mainstream as experimental. But the real stand-out player is German drummer John Schröder.

Finessing a variety of patterns, Schröder often uses woody rim shots, press rolls and ruffs to toughen the pianist’s low-frequency chording and the saxophonist’s breathy diaphragm vibrations, which together too often lean towards the romantic. In other instances, he mixes up the backbeat with pops, bumps and bounces to add a POMO sheen to what the others – especially with Gisler’s walking bass line and Vallon’s double-time, two-handed cadences – threaten to merely play as standard Hard Bop lines.

Most impressively, on the group composition “Fields of Darkness”, the drummer’s irregular pulsations and bang-on ratamacues prod the others towards abstraction as well. The bassist contributes string-stropping woody creaks; the saxophonist irregular trills, verging on split tones; and even the pianist indulges in pedal-stopping, flat-handed key percussiveness.

In the end, the impressive parts of this CD rest more on the rhythms of a singular poet than the many suggested by the title.

In MusicWorks Issue #100