Pascal Niggenkemper

Clean Feed CF 283 CD

Vision7 is a curious session for French-German bassist Pascal Niggenkemper. In the past, Niggenkemper, who is now a Brooklyn resident, has distinguished himself as soloist or sideman in a variety of instrumental projects featuring everyone from pianist Simon Nabatov to fellow bassist Pascal Ali. More ambitious, this suite made up of the bassist’s compositions, is interpreted by a septet in which Emilie Lesbros’s texts and vocal delivery feature prominently in at least four of the program’s seven compositions. At points her verbal Dadaism and onomatopoeia almost transforms the suite into a multilingual avant-cabaret show, making the bassist’s vision appear a bit cockeyed.

Instrumentally the band is strong, featuring a cross-section of inventive French and German improvisers, with some of the most exciting instances arising when the group plays on its own. Assimilating Christian Lillinger’s clattering drums and fragmented cymbal clouts, tremolo glissandi and soundboard snacks from Eve Risser’s piano, plus Els Vandeweyer’s ringing marimba thwacks, the group comes across like a hairier, outside-oriented Modern Jazz Quartet on “En Urgence”. Similarly Niggenkemper’s buzzing rubs and violist Frantz Loriot’s string scratches on “Ke Belle” carve distinctive individualized niches as the processional exposition gradually harmonizes.

Regrettably, as much as it may be unintentional, when Lesbros unleashes her collection of gurgles and yodels on “Sortir de la Colére”; stretches her rubbery delivery with random phrases in French, German and English during “Feuertreppe”; or turns to theatrical mannered declarations on “I Don’t Know Why, But This Morning…” the instrumentalists retreat before the multi-syllabic onslaught. This is despite slashing viola rasp challenges from Frantz Loriot on the second tune; or Frank Gratkowski’s stuttering and crying Dolphesque changes on the third.

Perhaps in the context of a live festival performance in Köln where the CD was recorded, the balance may have been more apparent. Or perhaps like “Finnegan’s Wake” multi-lingual sophistication would provide more clues to enjoyment. Since Vision7 is a bit cloudy in an ophthalmologist fashion, especially for an exclusively aural product, perhaps the bassist should try out a different (in) sight next time out.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Carnet Plein D’histoires 2. Dia de los Muertos 3. Feuertreppe 4. En Urgence 5. I Don’t Know Why, But This Morning… 6. Ke Belle 7. Lance die Lanze 8. Sortir de la Colére

Personnel: Frank Gratkowski (alto saxophone and bass clarinet); Frantz Loriot (viola); Eve Risser (piano and prepared piano); Els Vandeweyer (vibraphone and marimba); Pascal Niggenkemper (bass); Christian Lillinger (drums) and Emilie Lesbros (voice)