Honourable mention! ‘ GOLDEN RULEALBUM OF THE MONTH DEC 2018’

The ques­ti­on: What would you say defi­nes “spi­ri­tu­al jazz”? A power­ful expe­ri­ence? An evo­ca­ti­ve jour­ney? Music that trans­cends all time and place? Music that tou­ches your heart and streng­t­hens your soul? A sound that is at once explo­ra­ti­ve and free, whilst also giving a satis­fy­ing sen­se of belon­ging? An incom­pre­hen­si­ble cos­mic ener­gy that helps you feel groun­ded wit­hin an ever-chan­ging uni­ver­se? The ans­wer: Yes. All of this and more. Above all it is a con­nec­tion, with yours­elf, man­kind, and the world around you, a kind of medi­ta­ti­ve awa­ke­n­ing, as if to say “Ahh yes, this is it”. You can feel it. Your sen­ses rea­wa­ken and your mind is quiet­ly focus­sed. You let it all in, and bre­a­the. 

Few albums tru­ly cap­tu­re this spi­rit in such a con­sistent­ly start­ling and beau­ti­ful way. This one most defi­ni­te­ly does. Muri­el Grossmann’s “Gol­den Rule” embraces the ground­brea­king, explo­ra­to­ry jazz of Sun Ra and John Col­tra­ne, gives a very respect­ful nod to fel­low con­tem­pora­ries Nat Bir­chall and Shaba­ka Hut­chings, and immer­ses its­elf in a swirl of trans­cen­den­tal expres­si­on. Timeless and inno­va­ti­ve, this is one migh­ty state­ment of a record­ing.

Born in Paris to Aus­tri­an par­ents, saxo­pho­nist and com­po­ser Muri­el Gross­mann grew up in Vien­na, star­ting clas­si­cal stu­dies at the age of 5. When she swit­ched to saxo­pho­ne, dis­co­vering jazz at the age of 21, her musi­cal direc­tion chan­ged. Alt­hough learning most­ly from lis­ten­ing to records, Gross­mann also credits Ger­man jazz pia­nist Joa­chim Kühn, with whom she later stu­di­ed, as having a gre­at impact on her musi­cal­ly. Her sources of inspi­ra­ti­on are wide, inclu­ding a ran­ge of jazz giants from saxo­pho­nists such as Eddie “Lock­jaw” Davis, to gui­ta­rists like Grant Green. It is howe­ver, the sym­bio­sis of sounds crea­ted on this album, with Ser­bi­an gui­ta­rist Rado­mir Milo­j­ko­vic, Aus­tri­an bas­sist Gina Schwarz, and Ser­bi­an drum­mer and per­cus­sio­nist Uros Sta­men­ko­vic, that clo­se­ly link the music back to the works of Col­tra­ne.

There’s an intri­guing sonic palet­te to Grossmann’s music. As the album begins, ope­ning with the tit­le track, I was imme­dia­te­ly drawn to the almost whis­pe­red sounds that move and shim­mer, acting as a back­drop to the tune its­elf. Perhaps my musi­cal adven­tures in life have been less adven­tur­ous than I thought, but this is some­thing qui­te uni­que in the way that the sounds are sen­si­tively and intel­li­gent­ly laye­red. It’s a litt­le like ASMR (Auto­no­mous Sen­so­ry Meri­di­an Respon­se), only in a good way! (I’m not a fan). And it’s a stro­ke of musi­cal geni­us, allo­wing the musi­ci­ans to explo­re and impro­vi­se on top of the core of the tune, and the sonic land­s­cape that lives and bre­a­thes behind that. 

The initi­al bass-line on “Gol­den Rule” to my mind quiet­ly echoes the spo­ken wor­ds “A Love Supre­me”, as Grossmann’s sax sets off on a new and evol­ving jour­ney. “Core” con­ti­nues in a simi­lar vein, with perhaps more of a kno­wing glance to fel­low con­tem­pora­ry Nat Bir­chall. A fea­ture of the who­le record­ing is the dep­th of sound, lar­ge­ly crea­ted by the drums and per­cus­sion, hid­den secrets are gra­dual­ly revea­led and the more I lis­ten, with luscious bass dri­ven groo­ves fuel­ling the fire as a beau­ti­ful sax shaped Phoe­nix rises from the fla­mes, the more I can hear the traces of histo­ry pro­pel­ling the music for­ward into new, unknown ter­ri­to­ries.

Pro­mi­se” is a tune I can lose mys­elf in time and time again. It somehow speaks to me. This is the beau­ty of Grossmann’s com­po­si­ti­ons, but more over, the sen­se of con­nec­ted­ness I feel with the musi­ci­ans them­sel­ves. It’s as if I’m sharing their jour­ney whilst dis­co­vering my own. The slo­wer, con­tem­pla­ti­ve “Direc­tion” is one of tho­se tunes you just don’t want to end. It’s a medi­ta­ti­on, expres­si­ve and inclu­si­ve, sear­ching and expe­ri­en­cing, reaching and gras­ping, rela­xing and fin­ding. 

Tran­eing In” is the lon­gest pie­ce on the album. It opens with vibes, per­cus­sion and expe­ri­men­tal sounds, remin­ding me of Keith Jarrett’s “Spi­rits”. Milojkovic’s gui­tar takes cent­re-place, lea­ding the other instru­ments on an adven­ture into their own con­scious­ness. And then it all comes toge­ther in a spar­k­ling burst of light as the band-leader’s sopra­no sings out with an efferve­scent bridge of light. This is exci­ting and rich­ly rewar­ding music.

Tra­ne” is almost tran­ce-like, using mul­ti-laye­red saxes to crea­te a won­der­ful palet­te of sound. The tex­tu­ral ope­ning gives way to an infec­tious groo­ve, with bass, drums and gui­tar all com­bi­ning per­fect­ly to allow the tenor sax to soar with unbrid­led aban­don. The clo­sing track “Light” is like a homage to what has come befo­re, warm­ly cele­bra­ting its musi­cal ances­tors in an uplif­ting and respect­ful way, step­ping through doors ope­ned by pre­de­ces­sors and wal­king bold­ly into the light.

For tho­se of you who enjoy your spi­ri­tu­al jazz, this album is an abso­lu­te must-have. Muri­el Grossmann’s Quar­tet evo­ke the true beau­ty, sin­ce­ri­ty and joy of Col­tra­ne, whilst suc­cess­ful­ly musi­cal­ly sin­ging out in their own voice, crea­ting new ide­as with a refres­hing ver­ve and skill. “Gol­den Rule” is qui­te sim­ply an incredi­ble album, inven­ti­ve, full of cha­rac­ter, and to my ears, a musi­cal joy to behold.

Mike Gates