Ab Baars/Terrie Ex/Kaja Draksler

March 8, 2023

When The Hills Run Across The Fields – Live In Nickelsdorf
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 11/2022

Kaja Draksler/Susana Santos Silva
Intakt CD 391

Having gained prominence for her composing and instrumental skills, Kaja Draksler continues to investigate diverse musical situations. Besides her own groups, the Slovenian pianist has integrated herself into other configurations, two of which are highlighted during these live fest8vak sets. When The Hills… is a single improvisation from the Nickelsdorf festival where Draksler played with two of Amsterdam’s most creative players, multi-reedist Ab Baars, ICP Orchestra member and guitarist Terrie Ex. Recorded at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Grow features a recent cultivation between the pianist and Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, which has been flourishing for about 15 years.

Since Ex’s aggressive playing involves clanging and rubbing strings as well as flanges and twang; and Draksler often pummels the piano keys or scrapes the instrument’ internal string set there’s a need for a percussionist. Plus the highest as well as the lowest reed pitches are aptly projected from Baars’ tenor saxophone, clarinet and shakuhachi. This approach means that tumultuous sequences involve the reedist moving from upwards doits to clarion linearity to biting bellows in various combinations. Meanwhile Draksler counters his intonations with inventive textures that range from toy piano-like key sprinkles to key thumps that descend to pedal point emphasis. Meantime Ex challenges or decorates the expositions with string clangs or cuffs. By mid-point each partner’s contribution has hardened to maximum intensity with Baars’ multiphonic note clusters; Ex’s prominent string shakes and the pianist’s descending tones. While the narrative remains horizontal, it speeds up from andante to presto with galloping keyboard cascades, slurred fingering from the guitarist and reed shrieks that expose two notes at once. Slowing down to andante, aerophone-like reed peeps resonate against vibe-like single note pianism to radiate into a group conclusion.

Meanwhile on Grow, it’s Draksler’s piano key stopping and keyboard pressure which provides the bottom for the disc’s four connected improvisations. At the same time Silva’s half-valve slurs and triplet exploration bugle to crescendos that leave brass reverberations hanging in the air. Pushed still further on “Close” the adjoining broken octave expositions mean that formalist dabbling which with the pianist begins the program is quickly pushed away for keyboard patterning and equivalent implement juddering on the inner strings. Facing this the trumpeter’s output becomes even more discordant, matching gurgling portamento with strident squeaks and peeps. Finally Silva reaches a climax of air forced through the horn’s body tube without valve work. Prestissimo piano chording fills any space left in the narrative with a geyser of keyboard notes, harp-like glissandi from the inner strings and harsh raps against the instrument’s wood.. With hollow tube intonation and repeated smears the trumpeter introduces extended and condensed brass buzzes to the concluding title track, with the pianist’s response equally pressurized pedal point that is abruptly cut off as a single piano plink signals the ending.

Already acknowledged for her solo, and octet programs, with these sessions, Draksler prove once again that she can adapt to and amplify any configurations.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: When: 1. When The Hills Run Across The Fields

Personnel: When: Ab Baars (tenor saxophone, clarinet and shakuhachi): Kaja Draksler (piano) and Terrie Ex (guitar)

Track Listing: Grow: 1. Moonrise 2. Close 3. Liquid Rock 4. Grow.

Personnel: Grow: Susana Santos Silva (trumpet) and Kaja Draksler (piano)