September 2, 2021
Florian Weiss’ Woodoism
Nwog Records 036
Barefoot Records BFREC 066 CD
Cannily expanding on the low-pitch dexterity of trombonists and double bassists, two younger Swiss and Scandinavian combos create incisive takes on freedom-tinged contemporary improvisation. Led by trombonist Florian Weiss, who composed all of Alternate Reality’s 10 tracks, the Swiss quartet also features alto saxophonist/flautist Linus Amstad, percussionist Philipp Leibundgut and bassist Valentin v. Fischer. A quintet whose tunes were composed by either tenor saxophonist Nana Pi or trombonist Petter Hängsel, the Copenhagen-based Nezelhorns quintet includes trumpeter Erik Kimestad, bassist Johannes Vaht and Swedish drummer Kristoffer Rostedt.
Closely focused, the quintet leads off with powerful drum rumbles, thumping string strums, sibilate brass drones and the saxophonist fragmenting tones into screeches and flattement so when the second and title track arrives, advancing energetic multiphonics in a Nordic march appears perfectly logical. Over a carpet of rim shots and harmonized horns on “Need No Leash”, Vaht exposes robust bass thumps interlaced with staccato thrust setting up warm Don Cherry-meets-Clifford Brown flutters from Kimestad. While Hängsel’s playing is more invigorating elsewhere, “The Worst Case Scenario” exhibits his quieter skills. With evolving precision he stretches mellow pitches into interlocking affiliations, seconded by Pi’s left-field broken octave strategy. Reminiscent of West Coast Jazz counterpoint at points or layered World Saxophone Quartet-like harmonies at others, Nezelhorns still prefers languid, rounded narrative evolution. Sometimes breezy to a fault, it’s the trumpeter’s occasional hip-hoppy bugling and capillary spills that keep many tracks lively and ambulatory.
Owing to his leadership, Weiss sets up distinct parameters on “Inhale, Exhale”, Alternate Reality’s first track. Lazily moving the theme with Bluesy capillary slurs, he’s soon joined by a vigorous drum backbeat, four-square double bass thumps and a final sax vamp. Other tracks highlight his other brass factors, including intricate baroque like slides, a lively ending to “Fuge für A” as well as burrowing plunger tones that widen as the narrative advances on “The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep”. The last line is contrasted with effervescent reed work and drum shuffles until the two horns harmonize. Throughout the disc Fischer’s popping bass work holds the bottom and herds stray textures back to the group’s unfolding narrative.
Also for a vehicle for his writing, Weiss show off distinct compositional tropes. Pushed along with double bass thumps, the pseudo-exotic theme of “Wabi-Sabi” harmonizes undulating trombone puffs with Amstad’s low-pitched flute, as the exposition swells and diminishes as if it was a 1970s Herbie Mann rocker. Meanwhile the percussion rattles and crying bites from the saxophonist are consistently rearranged on “Feuer in Temitenhügel”, making it the most outside track. Designated as a suite, the three-part title tune is obviously most precious to Weiss, with personal motifs sutured into the performance. Separated by brief glockenspiel pings, the introductory and concluding sequences offer more scope. Criss-crossing timbres with horn smears and slurs and rush-hour traffic-like honks, Fischer’s unyielding throbs add to the intensity on “Visiting Oz” only to have the crescendo subside into a close cousin of a balladic “Over the Rainbow”. Invigorated on the last track, drum paradiddles, horn shakes and goose-like barks from Weiss bring the parts together for a sliding cohesive fanfare.
Likely not as advanced as the composers and players may think their sound is, both discs provide an object lesson in classy European improvised music.
Track Listing: Sentiment: 1. Frontless 2. Sentiment: 3. Ultra Magnus 4. Need No Leash 5. The Worst Case Scenario 6. Red Ballet Shoes 7. Moobs 8. Långsamt
Personnel: Sentiment: Erik Kimestad (trumpet); Petter Hängsel (trombone); Nana Pi (tenor saxophone and objects); Johannes Vaht (bass) and Kristoffer Rostedt (drums)
Track Listing: Alternate: 1. Inhale, Exhale 2. Shivering Timbers 3.Valse des Papillions de Nuit 4. Wabi-Sabi 5. The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep 6. Feuer in Temitenhügel 7. Fuge für A 8. Alternate Reality (Visiting Oz) 9. Alternate Reality II (Delirium) 10. Alternate Reality (Awakening)
Personnel: Alternate: Florian Weiss (trombone); Linus Amstad (alto saxophone and flute); Valentin v. Fischer (bass) and Philipp Leibundgut (drums and glockenspiel)