ButtercupMetalPolish &Jacques Demierre

Brain & Balls BBQ
Creative Sources CS 176 CD

Proving that a well-seasoned pianist can more than hold his own with two bombastic percussionists is Swiss keyboardist Jacques Demierre.

With an aggressive and percussive attack that can overshadow McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor’s when necessary, plus minimalist single-note accents worthy of Count Basie or Ahmad Jamal, the Geneva native is able to parry anything almost literally thrown at him by Englishman Nicolas Field and fellow Swiss Alexandre Babel who perform as ButtercupMetalPolish, and lobby a few challenges their way as well. Throughout the seven Tokyo-recorded tracks, the three combine textures to easily illustrate the CD title.

Members of the N-collective, Babel and Field specialize in galvanized rhythms, working all over Europe with everyone from Art Rockers to Electronicists. Demierre’s art is more subtle. Moving among Jazz, Improv, notated Music, sound installations, and composing for theatre and dance, the pianist has partnered with musicians as different as laptoppist D’incise, bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber. Throughout the tracks when the percussionist threatens to head into unrelenting Heavy Metal excess, Demierre’s strategy is as often to downshift to microtonal exploration than match them timbre for timbre.

Consider the stentorian interlude with the surrealistic title of “How to Chose Plus Size Dresses that Flatter (in a Mushroom)”. While Field and Babel use quadrupled strokes with cross and opposite sticking to whack cymbals and slam polyrhythmic blasts made up of rebounds, ruffs and flams – at one point almost evoking “Wipe Out” – the pianist’s assertive glissandi sparkling with kinetic asides, responds in kind. With the tripartite fantasia evolving at staccatissimo speed, Demierre’s tremolo syncopation weaves spherically around the drummers with such power that soon the two diminish their clamor to intermittent bass drum strokes from one and what could be marbles rolling on a drum top from the other.

Squeaks on the external wood and sostenuto pedal depression that echo in chord extensions, enliven other pieces such as “He’s Likable Guts” and “L’empire du Nez”. Often the resulting piano textures are used as dynamic counterpoint to the hollow wood strokes, bell-ringing and darbuka-like resounds from the percussionists. Some feature guitar-like plucked internal piano strings, others open up enough to showcase legato intonation with each key stroke sustained to its most lyrical.

“Vulcan Nerve Pinch”, an extended showcase, practically replicates the total session in miniature. Moving from nearly inaudible squeaks and pops from all concerned, razored friction is soon evident as Demierre stops, squeezes and excites the internal strings with what could be a metal comb or a knife blade. Simultaneously he extends the piano action, so that the capotes, agraffe and dampers quiver percussively. Contrapuntally the drummers abstractly and methodically shake, rub and tickle their equipment before reaching a climax of tremolo and fortissimo clatters, quivers and slides that appear to bring into play all percussion implements on hand. High frequency kineticism from the keyboard defines the final variant with the piece ending with decisive single key clink.

Feast on this Brain & Balls BBQ for the fired-up interaction among the three participants. Yet be aware that there’s so delicacy in the sonic sauce as well, courtesy of chef Demierre.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Whose Arms on Ma’am? 2. Lettre du Governeur 3. Vulcan Nerve Pinch 4. How to Chose Plus Size Dresses that Flatter (in a Mushroom) 5. He’s Likable Guts 6.The Croquet Consortium 7. L’empire du Nez

Personnel: Jacques Demierre (piano) and Nicolas Field and Alexandre Babel (drums and percussion)