Nov/2019 by Leonid Auskern
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For some, Ibiza, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, is a place of noisy youth parties in countless clubs, the most famous European resort. For me, for the past five years, Ibiza has been the place where a great musician, saxophonist and composer from Austria Muriel Grossman lives. Starting in 2015 I reviewed all of her works on our website, and I got a great opportunity to follow the development of Muriel’s work, which, undoubtedly, went on expanding. Last year’s Golden Rule album (2018) seemed to me the strongest, and therefore the new Reverence project was of particular interest.
“Awe” — this is the name you can translate. Before what? The answer can be found both in music and in the words of Muriel herself: “What is common between jazz and African music and what makes this similarity so unique is that in essence, as the strongest part of foundation, every musician deals with a certain rhythm that contributes to the whole, thereby creating multidirectional rhythms, also known as polyrhythm. ” Yes, in a sense, Reverence is a tribute to African music, and to African culture in general. Grossmann neglected attempts to imitate African rhythms and methods of constructing compositions, Reverence is, rather, the look of a European jazz musician on Africa, a deep, attentive and respectful look, which is especially noticeable in pieces such as the opening composition Okan Ti Aye, Tribu and Afrika Mahala. All this in itself distinguishes the album from its predecessors, but in addition the sound of the ensemble itself has changed.
As in previous works, next to Grossman, who uses three types of saxophones here — soprano, alto and tenor, we see her constant partners: guitarist Radomir Milojkovic, bassist Gina Schwarz and drummer Uros Stamenkovic. But the mallorcas organist Lorenç Barcelo also joined this Austro-Serbian team at Reverence, turning the familiar quartet into a quintet. Already from the first track you understand how this affected the sound of the band, when the saxophone part Muriel Grossman finds a reliable support in the sound of the organ to the quasi-African rhythm. In one of the best, for my taste, album compositions, the lyrical and philosophical Sundown, Muriel’s meditative solo also truly benefits from the organ background. The appearance of Barcelo naturally reduced the number of solo parts of Milojkovic, but not their quality. His guitar, as usual, is impeccable in Water Bowl, Chase, Afrika Mahala, and in addition, the guitar-organ interaction also brings new colors and possibilities to the sound. But Muriel herself is true to herself. Her playing is still unusually emotional and impeccable in technique. Depending on what instrument she uses in a particular piece, I recalled, while listening to her playing such iconic names as Wayne Shorter or Jane Ira Bloom. An example of her skill as a saxophonist are compositions such as Union, Sundown and Afrika Mahala, where the saxophone enters into a dialogue with itself. As for Grossmann, the composer, the African sound of the album served as a new challenge for her, with which she coped quite successfully. In a word, Reverence marks a definite turn in the search for this very talented performer and composer.
Like the previous album, Reverence was released by the Estonian label RR GEM Records, this time in 2LP format. On four vinyl sides, two compositions were fit on each — long, detailed, multifaceted compositions, with an extended sound, of nine to eleven minute each. I think they will bring a lot of pleasure to both the listeners of the album and the audience of her performances in Helsinki and Tallinn in early December, where Muriel will present her new work.