Nu Bop


Copenhagen born Danish-Congolese multiinstrumentalist John Tchicai is one of the greats on the European avant-garde jazz scene. He definitely deserves a much wider recognition than he actually gets. Tchicai, who has been playing music for over sixty years, has numerous fantastic collaborations under his belt. He worked with a host of American free jazz giants including Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Bill Dixon or Cecil Taylor.

Being one of the founder members of two important groups: the New York Contemporary Five and the New York Art Quartet, Tchicai later appeared on John Coltrane's legendary Ascension album as well. His interest in the jazz-poetry connection was well expressed through his unique recordings with two outstanding American poets, LeRoi Jones and Yusef Komunyakaa. After his return from the US, Tchicai's European solo career was supported by none other than Albert Mangelsdorff, Misha Mengelberg, NHOP or Irene Schweizer as well as some excellent South African exile musicians like Johnny Dyani and Gilbert Matthews. 

Now, the relentless innovator introduces us to his new quintet. Apart from the leader on tenor, the remaining four points are Alex Weiss on tenor and alto, Garrison Fewell on guitar, bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Ches Smith. On the surface,  the band members appear to be unlikely bedfellows, coming from varied geographical and, especially - musical, backgrounds (free jazz, mainstream and even hardcore). But, despite all the differences,  their playing here is a perfect and seamless blend. Almost every musician on the date contributed his own material to the band's program. These compositions, although varying in character, constitute a coherent unity.

What might come as a surprise to some listeners is the fact that this is not at all 'fire music". The session's music is rather quiet and sometimes even meditative in character and owes a lot to the Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz legacy. "Venus", the opening track by Garrison Fewell, is delicate and  mysterious - made up of air and mist for the most part. All the instruments weave a precise, albeit irregular web. Similarly, "Parole Ambulante", the final tune, penned by John Tchicai, is made more of a veil than fire. This piece develops into a sort of percussion discussion at a conference of the birds, which means Ches Smith conversing freely with the rest of the group, creating an engaging counterpoint. "Anxiety Disorder", one of the two Ches' tunes here (the other being the title track "One Long Minute"), is a proof of his great melodic skills and stays with you long afterwards.

Why this music is so good is quite simple. A fine, diverse personnel handpicked by a great, experienced leader. The players communicating with uncanny rapport and taste (even the use of the unlisted bass clarinet adds a very special flavour on some tracks). An interesting set of original and improv-provoking compositions. And finally, empathic collective effort resulting in excellent balance of free form and structure.









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