Pascal Niggenkemper

Upcoming Hurricane
No Business NBCD 34

By Ken Waxman

Spontaneity is enhanced by inspiration. That’s what bassist Pascal Niggenkemper proves with this CD, an original take on the classic jazz piano trio, recorded in one session in Cologne. The symmetry maintained between linear harmony and fanciful abstractions demonstrated on the seven tracks is also a result of to the equilibrium maintained among the French-German bassist who now lives in New York, and his associates – sidemen isn’t the word – who singly and together have been on hundreds of records.

Inventive percussionist, Detroit-born Gerald Cleaver usually works with sound explorers such as saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and bassist William Parker, although his past experience includes gigging with mainstream piano masters such as Tommy Flanagan. No slouch on the keyboard himself, Russian-born, Cologne-based Simon Nabatov is a mercurial pianist, whose extended 10-year New York stint means he’s as likely to work regularly with Americans like drummer Tom Rainey as Europeans like saxophonist Frank Gratkowski. Niggenkemper is a member of interlocking Manhattan combos with unconventional instrumentation, so it’s instructive to note how his tough Mingus-styled string pops and scrubbed multiphonics fit in this traditional setting.

Very well it turns out, since Niggenkemper gives free reign to everyone’s inventions; especially the pianist’s. Nabatov’s strategy for “Fighting the Mill”, for instance, involves tremolo rumbles plus strummed inner strings that mesh with the bassist’s woody rubs and the drummer’s off-handed syncopation. With all three playing continuously, Nabatov manages to create a lyrical narrative at the same time as skittering dynamics that could give Cecil Taylor pause.

An equivalent muscularity is apparent on the title track, as Nabatov’s animated, polyrhythms moves from stentorian and fortissimo to suggest linear ballads. His touch is even more vigorously percussive than Cleaver’s understated clunks and pops. Overall though, it’s Niggenkemper’s unvarying walking that holds the piece together

On other tracks the drummer’s kinetic ruffs and raps are given brief showcases as are the bassist’s acerbic sul tasto lines extensions. While Nabatov may take the bulk of the solos – as is common in this format – never does the performance seem unbalanced in his favor.

With everyone contributing this Upcoming Hurricane is one which listeners can weather with pleasure.

Tracks: Pusteblume; Upcoming Hurricane; Arbol de Piedra; Aeolus; Fighting the Mill; Rahonavis; Mongolfière

Personnel: Simon Nabatov; piano; Pascal Niggenkemper: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums

—For New York City Jazz Record January 2012