Simon Nabatov/Nils Wogram/Tom Rainey

Leo LR 647

By Ken Waxman

Recorded at the Loft performance space in Cologne, Germany, Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov’s adopted home town, Nawora – a combination of the first syllables of the players’ last names – is one of a trio of discs featuring the pianist’s favorite musicians in various configurations. Truthfully the CD’s sophisticated improvisations easily stand on their own due to the congenial dealings among the pianist, hot-shot German trombonist Nils Wogram and sensitive American drummer Tom Rainey, both of whom have been Nabatov associates for either side of two decades.

With Rainey a specialist in suggesting rather than forcing the beat, Wogram’s and Nabatov’s penchant for stringing together brass smears and keyboard sprinkles until they reach a critical point can unroll in a leisurely fashion. At the same time, while temperate and pensive are core expressions, the seven tracks are anything but skeletal tone-research. Most include a body of melody, color and enough exciting multiphonics to add pulsating flesh-and-blood to the ecosystem. For instance the final “Dust-Tongued Bell” may initially sound like a test to see how many brass split tones can dissolve into piano innards as Nabatov plucks the exposed strings. But the tune quickly toughens rhythmically, as the pianist’s subsequent clipped notes are matched by Wogram’s growling pulsations. Rainey’s contribution? A decisively final cymbal pop.

While brooding interludes edging impressionism are part-and-parcel of the three-part strategy here, wallowing in melancholy or precious impressionism isn’t part of the game plan. If anything the hardened chord clusters from Nabatov and the triple-tonguing plunger blasts from the trombonist displayed so prominently on percussive tunes such as “Nail” – encompassing uncharacteristic vibrating clanks from Rainey – are most representative. In more than its title “Nonchalant Hint” may finally provide the secret words to why Nawora is so pleasurable: unpretentious flexibility. On it, Nabatov’s slides from lovingly caressing the piano keys to vibrating blues-based tremolos with the same offhanded dexterity, as Wogram’s staccato tongue flutters melt into mouthpiece bubbles without ever breaking the narrative. Meanwhile Rainey backs each motion to perfection with unvarnished rolls, ramps and ruffs.

Overall this multi-faceted session confirms why all three players are constantly busy with a variety of bands.

Tracks: Downstairs Upstairs; Nonchalant Hint; Heroes Like Us; Nail It; Persistence Is a Virtue; Both And; Dust-Tongued Bell

Personnel: Nils Wogram: trombone; Simon Nabatov: piano; Tom Rainey: drums