REVIEW of ‘REVERENCE’ in Jazzquad, Belarus by Leonid Auskern

JAZZQUAD, Bela­rus
Nov/2019 by Leo­nid Auskern
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Muri­el Gross­mann — Reverence

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.
Leo­nid Auskern