September 21, 2015
Raft of the Meadows
NoBusiness Records NBLP 80
Ask the Dust
Lado ABC Records DL
Attesting to his dual Polish-Australian heritage, double bassist Mike Majkowski’s playing on these trio sessions is bifurcated but refreshingly consistent. A prodigious player with a broad confident tone, Sydney-born Mike Majkowski has lived in Berlin since 2011.
On Raft of the Meadows, like the muscle in a teen idol’s entourage, he focuses his spacious attributes on seconding the sometimes lissome interludes of pianist Chris Arahams, long-time member of The Necks trio. More hard-hitting and not enraptured like much of the Necks sound, the Roil trio, which has been together since 2007, inhabits the area where melodic Jazz brushes up Free Improv. Completing the all-Aussie cast is drummer James Waples, who has performed with Down-under stylists such as saxophonist Dale Barlow and pianist Mike Nock.
Ask the Dust is a different cut of kielbasa. Formed in 2012 Lotto’s game plan relates more to the squat force of Metal-influenced Rock music than Jazz. However drummer Paweł Szpura from Warsaw is no aimless batterer having played with the likes of flautist Nicole Mitchell and fellow drummer Hamid Drake. A bit closer to Rock’n’Roll heaven with a ringing, sometimes discordant style, guitarist Lukasz Rychlicki is versatile enough to have worked with Gdansk-based reedist Mikołaj Trzaska.
What that means is that while no one would ever mistake Lotto for the polite Modern Jazz Quartet, Rychlicki’s muzzy guitars may scream on occasion but don’t completely disrupt the proceedings either. Meantime his contributions range from folksy strums, matched with click-clank drumming which make a tune like the atmospheric “Comet” suggest what would happen if the Byrds got wasted on strong Polish beer; to ones such as “Divider” where a sliding double bass buzz is divided from drum kit splashes by Rychlicki approximating steel guitar licks.
Power Trios echoes assert themselves most strongly on the concluding “Man of Medicine” however. As Szpura splatters and splashes boulder chunky raps in tandem with shrieking electrified guitar shakes, Majkowski keeps the rhythm on a steady course. Just before the consistent scrapping of harsh metal against even harsher objects attains a portentous level of seeming no return, the sound dissolves, confirming that Lotto is related more closely to paced post-rock than Heavy Metal or Arena Rock.
In the same way, Roil wouldn’t be confused for any of those Jazz piano trios which take the parameters of Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson as starting points; nor would it be confused with Arahams’ other trio The Necks. The latter is obvious since Waples is hard-hitting percussionist whose steady beats at points could fit in as part of Lotto. Additionally Majkowski’s presence is felt more with Roil than Lotto. Most of the time after the pianist has stated the exposition via a series of pinpointed glissandi or concentrated treads, it’s the bassist who provides the harmonies, staying as close to Arahams’ lead as a new puppy on a leash.
From his Necks experience Arahams knows how to extend a theme. But with this band he can be as organically swinging as Errol Garner if he wishes, or, like a sushi chef, chops the narrative into multiple sound wedges. His sonic knife work is in the interest of a balanced musical meal as well, so, for instance, the passionate tremolos that fold into Majkowski’s shaded bass line on “Multiplier” add as much nutrition to the piece as the initial dramatic key clips that bring forth string resonations from the bull fiddle.
That Roil can stir emotions from opposite circumstances is made clear on the title tracks and “Life Event Kit”. Imbued with gathering menace though rigid cymbal snaps and repetative double bass string ringing, the eventual release in “Raft of the Meadows” creates a feeling of joyful sensitivity. While Waples may be a little too busy on “Life Event Kit”, Arahams; use of contrapuntal patterns and stimulating passing tones opens the dialogue – that includes weighty bass plucks – to a satisfying conversation.
With the six performances on this session both sympathetic and substantial, Roil is good enough not to be thought of a Neckman’s side project. It’s the same with Lotto, though a finer definition of how particularly it can differentiate itself from other bands of the same instrumentation is needed. Still both discs more than confirm Majkowski’s resolute versatility.
Track Listing: Ask: 1. Gremlin-prone 2. Lense 3. Longing to Speak 4. Comet 5. Divider 6. Man of Medicine
Personnel: Ask: Lukasz Rychlicki (guitars); Mike Majkowski (bass) and Pawel Szpura (drums)
Track Listing: Raft: 1. Laminate 2. Raft of the Meadows 3. Life Event Kit Side B: 4. Junipers Both 5. Multiplier 6. Bone Collar
Personnel: Raft: Chris Arahams (piano); Mike Majkowski (bass) and James Waples (drums)