Mount Meander

Live in Berlin
Gotta Let It Out GLIO 29 CD

As the United Kingdom tears itself apart trying to work out the least painful way to separate from the European Union, the spirit of cooperation that has brought many other states from continental Europe to join the EU continues to flourish. Musically you can note it in a disc like Live in Berlin, from Mount Meander, a fiery post-Trane quartet with members from three different countries.

On the group compositions that make up the band’s second CD there are discussions and detours in the narratives, but overall the tunes are as free of sonic roadblocks and dead ends as travel within the EU should be. With experience playing with the likes of Mat Maneri, Lotte Anker, Kresten Osgood and others, the quartet members now travel firmly on their own route with no meandering. More a suite than eight separate tracks, each statement flows into the next with ample space allocated to Latvian-in-Copenhagen soprano/tenor saxophonist Kārlis Auziņš and German pianist Lucas Leidinger as well as intermezzos for Pole-in-Copenhagen bassist Tomo Jacobson and German drummer Thomas Sauerborn.

Sometimes suggesting a mystical-Psychedelic era overlay, the program begins slowly with strings plucked from both piano and double bass, low-pitched nasal reed tones and swelling judders from the drummer. As Auziņš’ split tones and flutters multiply horizontally and vertically on “ARRIVAL (touchdown or the two faces of the cosmic wizard)”, the subsequent track, the band’s strategy is established. And it usually also involves Leidinger stabilizing the exposition with chromatic fills. Although much of the sonic real estate is taken up by the saxophonist’s pressurized overblowing and the pianist’s repeated tremolos, when the two retreat, others step forward. To the accompaniment of piano-harp strums and drum shuffles, Jacobson’s feature on “FEATURE (strings all over)” involves archer-like string plucks which centre on stabbing errant noises from his strings, while Sauerborn’s steady breaks on “OPUS (hearts breathing)” show him to his best advantage.

Eventually after sequences of meditative blows or mere breaths, the final “ENCORE (the ghosts in the woods)” ups the ante once again with swirling bass string angling and sul ponticello asides, yowling reed bites, drum clip clops and the pressure from stopped piano keys. Dissecting and reassembling every texture they can, the four wiggle to the finale.

Avant-garde to some, modern mainstream to others, Live in Berlin helps define what cooperation can achieve. Maybe hyperbolic politicians should start taking tips from Jazz musicians.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. SET (reach) 2. ARRIVAL (touchdown or the two faces of the cosmic wizard) 3. EVOLUTION (climbing babel or Gaunab) 4. FEATURE (strings all over) 5. INTERACTION (on the rim) 6. DRUM (ants & elephants) 7. OPUS (hearts breathing) 8. ENCORE (the ghosts in the woods)

Personnel: Kārlis Auziņš (tenor and soprano saxophones); Lucas Leidinger (piano); Tomo Jacobson (bass) and Thomas Sauerborn (drums)