Roby Glod/Roberta Piket/Mark Tokar/Klaus Kugel

Op Der Schmelz Live
Nemu 012

By Ken Waxman

With the skills of improvisers world-wide now incontestable, it shouldn’t be surprising to find expressive chamber jazz from an international quartet. What’s a bit usual is that besides the German percussionist, Ukrainian bassist and American pianist here, the other voice is that of a Luxembourg native, with this disc recorded live in the Grand Duchy itself.

Roby Glod is a strong player who wouldn’t be out of place in any setting; in fact the alto and soprano saxophonist works with Americans such as Herb Robertson. Bassist Mark Tokar anchors many of Ken Vandermark’s international projects; while drummer Klaus Kugel regularly gigs with European and American bands. The undeservedly least known member of the band is NYC pianist Roberta Piket, despite having recorded with figures like Rufus Reid and Billy Hart.

As a matter of fact it’s Piket’s two-handed keyboard work that has Keith Jarrett’s facility but more guts, which sets the pace for many of these selections. Witness this on “Budmo, Hay” as her comprehensive strategies evolve from whimsical key dusting to full-fledged tremolo strums. Off-handedly suspending the melody, her exposition leaves plenty of space for Tokar’s violin-pitched arco exercise where ringing strums are replaced by strident rubs. Utilizing all four strings, he manages to sweep and cascade notes simultaneously. Meantime Glod’s smeary soprano saxophone produces a penetrating tone, but he’s so in control of his instrument that it’s never shrill nor out of tune.

Although other tracks may show off, for instance, Picket’s reflective line-shaping, Glod’s perfect note placement and Kugel’s blunt polyrhythms, it’s the title track which unequivocally demonstrates the combo’s flexibility. The freest tune, “Op Der Schmelz” leisurely concentrates repressed reed tone swallows; fungible piano key clicks; bass string scratches; plus gong pops and chain shakes. Before Picket’s powerful cascades mixed with reed flutter-tonguing expose the swinging main melody, there`s another Tokar showcase. Wrapping together zither-sounding strokes, below-the-bridge plucks and wood-rending pressures, his fierce interface roughens as it extends the narrative, finally reaching a dual climax alongside Kugel’s weighty ruffs and rolls. Digging into the keys, the pianist`s sympathetic lines cross and re-cross one another, finally embodying the soaring theme.

Accomplished sessions like this from unexpected places featuring underrepresented musicians suggest that Americans should be less geographically challenged.

Tracks: Dredger of Pig Rolls; Lviv; Budmo, Hay; Nazar; Op Der Schmelz; Still Alive

Personnel: Roby Glod: alto and soprano saxophones; Roberta Piket: piano; Mark Tokar: double bass; Klaus Kugel: drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record July 2013