Lucas Niggli Zoom meets Arte Quartet

Crash Cruise
Intakt CD 130

Extending his musical imagination still further, Swiss drummer and percussionist Lucas Niggli mates harmonious coloration from the all-saxophone Arte Quartet to his Zoom trio’s jazz rhythms for this 13-track CD.

The quartet, which has provided similar reed polyphony for composers ranging from jazzer Tim Berne to minimalist Terry Riley stretches, undulates and rappels mid-range legato timbres to provide an ever-shifting backdrop for notable work from trombonist Nils Wogram, guitarist Philipp Schaufelberger and Niggli himself. Especially impressive is Wogram whose 11-minute feature “Saft” shows a command of slippery chromatic runs plus growly vocalized plunger excavations. Also a master of braying and slurring, throughout the young Swiss brassman can swerve almost instantaneously from gritty tongue stops to smooth chromatic fingering.

“Reflex”, a rondo-like adagio showcase for Schaufelberger, features the guitarist’s straight finger picking and cross-pulsing descending riffs intersecting with contrapuntal reed layering from the four saxophones. It, like many of the other tunes, is also notable for what isn’t heard: overdone percussion interludes from the leader. Instead, Wogram is the master of subtle rhythm and barely heard drum beats.

Even in those instances when the guitarist outputs flanged timbres and sharper accents, it’s Wogram’s low-pitched whinnies and triple tonguing that reins him in. Similarly, the Arte Quartet’s few split-tone excursions are usually knit into trilling harmonies with the help of contrapuntal accents from the trombonist and drummer.

Consequently, the CD’s title is a misnomer. It’s not so much a Crash Cruise, as a crash course in first-rate Swiss-based improvisation.

— Ken Waxman

for CODA