Im Wald

Wide Ear Records WER 022

Constituted as if it is a field recordings of a imaginary woodland, the three tracks alto saxophonist Tobias Meier composed for Im Wald (In the Forest), allude to outdoor scenes, but one ostensibly situated on a distant parallel planet. Flora and fauna life forms are alluded to, but the observation is distilled through a post-modern conception. Like an austere white on white painting that on discriminating examination imparts richer details, this brief suite is as much about the journey as the destination.

Meier and the other players – trumpeter Matthias Spillmann, violist Frantz Loriot, cellist Nicola Romanò and bassist Raffaele Bossard – are all Swiss based and have worked in a variety of configurations from the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra and Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich to several small groups. Their familiarity with multiple musical forms allows for a performance that touches on minimalism, but includes enough timbral development so that it never lapses into sameness. The quintet may be drummer-less as well, but enough under-stated percussive eruptions occur to give the tracks a feeling of animation,

Throughout, comingling textures are sensed rather that heard directly as if they’re unfolding at a distance, maybe in verdant outer space. Beginning with menacing bottom tones from the cello and double bass which rub and tumble like nocturnal animals in a forest in brief sequences, themes are established during the longer “Nebulae” and even lengthier title track. Advancing at a leisurely pace, the band uses string squeezes, horn growls and puffs to activate fanciful animal timbres from the watery ecosystem that constantly bubbles just beneath the surface.

Like a wide-angle camera lens that slowly draws back to reveal a landscape’s breadth, the nearly 20-minute “Orion” fills in the previously obscured specifics. With Meier and Spillmann adding broken octave judders and collective rumbling from the strings, the ever-present horizontal drone is broken up like a highway with road blocks, side paths and detours. Drawing together uncoiling strings and gasping yawns from the horns, the piece reaches a crescendo of protoplasmic motion, attaining a climax of siren-like trumpet wails mixed with constantly vibrating strings that finally collapse into a contrapuntal finale.

Less recondite creations are described as organic for the use of simple, pastoral sequences. In contrast Orion is genuinely organic because high quality musicianship and intelligent themes are melded without neglecting propulsive movement.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Flächen 2. Nebulae 3. Orion

Personnel: Matthias Spillmann (trumpet); Tobias Meier (alto saxophone); Frantz Loriot (viola); Nicola Romanò (cello) and Raffaele Bossard (bass)