Akku Quintet “Molecules”

Akku QuintetMaja Nydegger’s delicate piano sets up a repetitive motif
As readers may know, I like space in music. When I first saw a group of Swiss artists jam with the legendary saxophonist, John Surman, the most impressive were those who knew when to ‘shut it’, to avoid an ugly cacophony. Akku Quintet share this sensitivity and aren’t afraid to step away from the mic. Formed by drummer, Manuel Pasquinelli in 2010, Molecules is the quintet’s second release on Pasquinelli’s own label, Morpheus. It’s an EP more than an album and my sense is they are a band in development.

They carefully creep into each track, as in ‘Fluid’ and ‘Schneeman’ when Maja Nydegger’s delicate piano sets up a repetitive motif, almost acting as a mantra for the piece. This is perfectly balanced by the tenor saxophone of Thierry Lüthy who has an assured and warm tone. His notes waft around the piano melody as if the two are in a quiet conversation. When he builds to a sort of circular breathing in ‘Phase Transitions’ it brings a ripple of excitement.

Guitarist Markus Ischer soars through with a woozy-stoned solo
Despite being Pasquinelli’s project he keeps his crisp beats sparse, playing a supportive role and taking time before coming in with off beats, mini-patterns, or simple, unadorned snare and bass drums. Considering the power an electric bass can wield I was rarely aware of it, Andi Schnellmann excels at enmeshing his sound into the others’ like a soft echo of the music.

The best moments come when they suddenly switch the vibe, such as in ‘Schneemann’ when six minutes in, guitarist Markus Ischer soars through with a woozy-stoned solo and Maja subtly responds with low church organ chords and pithy alien-like beeps. Markus Ischer’s guitar is the strongest voice, it resembles Lüthy’s consciousness but with extra drive. He interrupts ‘Phase Transitions’ with a warbling and affected guitar before changing his touch with metallic stabs and long haunting notes, keeping you entranced.

AkkuQuintetMoleculesThere’s a need to develop grit and emotional vulnerability
Akku are creating soundscapes with tracks lasting 10 to 15 minutes (apart from the quirky and jaunty, ‘Freeze’), however, at times I wanted them to turn up the intensity, the music could become so laid back I became disengaged. There’s a need to develop grit and emotional vulnerability in their themes and playing. They are working with media artist Jonas Fehr for their live shows and I liked the cover artwork by Sandro Galli. Pasquinelli has invested in a limited edition of hand-printed covers for the vinyl edition but his next focus should be developing the band’s voice so it stays relevant and is not shy of demanding to be heard.

Akku Quintet website
Akku Quintet Bandcamp

07.04.2015    Freiburg (DE)
08.04.2015    E-Werk – Freiburg (DE)
09.04.2015    Lagerhaus (mediencoop) – Bremen (DE)
11.04.2015    Cafe Fincan – Berlin (DE)
12.04.2015    Stellwerk – Hamburg (DE)
13.04.2015    Jäzzzeit Im Heimathirsch – Köln (DE)
15.04.2015    Immerhin – Würzburg (DE)
16.04.2015    Early Bird – Innsbruck (AUT)

16.05.2015    Orbital Garden  – Bern (CH)  (playing Music By Don Li)

Samuel Blaser on records

Samuel Blaser "As The Sea"Samuel Blaser released his new CD, “As The Sea”, on HatHut records ont the 26th of February. You can listen to “As The Sea Part One” and download the full album on his bandcamp page.

Samuel Blaser with Paul Motian

Samuel Blaser with Paul Motian

Two years ago at Cully Jazz Festival, he was the opening act for Wayne Shorter. He played his cards magnificently well. With an original concert-concept, he gave a jazz interpretation to Baroque and Renaissance music. It was a première before the launch of his CD in New York. Since he had a plane to catch for New York at the crack of dawn, it’s via mail that he explained to us the why’s and wherefore’s of his project « Consort in Motion » with Paul Motian.

 “I’ve always been influenced by baroque music. My professor at the Conservatory at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Pierre Henry, was an excellent teacher, but at that time I used to only listen with one ear because the only thing I could think about was playing jazz. Today I play jazz and I find myself immersed in classical music. For this record, I reworked a lot of Claudio Monteverdi’s material because he is an innovative person, the inventor of opera. It seemed important to me to set off from someone like him in order to build something new. I’ve also reworked some compositions by Marini and Frescobaldi.

 Each track was approached differently. Sometimes, as with the track that’s on the Swiss Vibes compilation, (« Lamento della Ninfa »), I kept the melody intact. In the original version, the melody is played by a soprano and 3 tenors, whereas in this case it’s played by piano. In other instances, I only took the beginning and end of a composition and played around with it. Each time I try to extract the original material and to simplify it.

Samuel Blaser_cover The record « Consort in Motion» was recorded in 5 hours in New York with Paul Motian. I wanted to work with him because he’s played with everyone and because his very particular cymbal sound suited the project. The other musicians are a mix of people I knew well and some who had previously played with Motian.

It was important to record the CD in these conditions. For the Cully concert, I played with a different bassist and drummer (Gérald Cleaver). We rehearsed for an hour the day before, that was enough for us because my music is largely improvised and we’re used to playing together. I was really proud to get up on stage at Cully Jazz with this music, improvised music of the day!”

 Samuel Blaser

PS. This article was first published on swissvibes.org in french in April 2011. Translation Beatrice Venturini.
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