Simon Nabatov

January 16, 2024

unBroken Sounds U05

Taking a break from his ambitious series of program music, Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov invites five other Köln-based musicians to participate in this two-part improvisation with all of the freedom but none of the formalism of his compositional work. There’s no slackening of sonic invention in this profound group composition however. That’s because the pianist’s ensemble consists of players whose musical latitude is almost a broad as the pianist’s.

The band is multinational as well. Saxophonist Sebastian Gille, who maneuvers between emotional coloration and technical experimentation is German, as is bassist David Holm, who splits arco and pizzicato rhythms and asides with Iranian-German bassist Reza Askari. Trombonist Shannon Barnett, whose strategy encompasses plunger smears and melodic embellishments is Australian, while drummer Mariá Portugal, who prefer subtlety to thundering is Brazilian.

Both tracks roam through multiple interludes. These include hubs of crunching power impelled by dual bass thumps and percussion patterns; dramatic pivots from reed bites to slurs; trombone tongue flutters; and energetic note fanning from the keyboard.  Focused horizontal theme development maintains linear consistency while allowing for individual experimentation. However it’s the slightly briefer “Extension 2” which is more suite-like, emphasizing cadenced and compositional shifts throughout.

Introduced a capella by harsh tenor saxophone growls and split tones, the exposition is stimulated to a quicker pace once forearm smashes along the keyboard, thick bass string plucks and irregular reed vibrations are heard. Yet the exposition soon slows down balanced on trombone moans and double bass strums. Nabatov then alters the aural scenery by introducing a processional melody surrounded by basso snarls from the trombonist and smeary vibrations from Gille’s soprano sax as one bassist strums his strings and the other bows  asides. By the finale, the theme which the pianist has almost unobtrusively preserved throughout rises above tart brass tongue flutters, reed twitters and sul tasto string scrubs to preserve positioned sound evolution.

In this respite from his program music, Nabatov shows no lessening of his sonic vision. Instead with the freedom expressed by all players, an extension and embodiment of sophisticated group improvising is displayed.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Extension 1 2. Extension 2

Personnel: Shannon Barnett (trombone); Sebastian Gille  (tenor and soprano saxophones); Simon Nabatov (piano); David Helm and Reza Askari (bass) and Mariá Portugal (drums)