Thursday 22 October 2009

WHO TRIO – Less Is More

Clean Feed

WHO stands for Wintsch (Michel, piano), Hemingway (Gerry, drums and percussion) and Oester (Bänz, bass). Active for over ten years under this embodiment, these artists are as distant from an ordinarily stale jazz trio as an exhausted reviewer could wish for. For starters, we find no surplus of swing in Less Is More, which makes me extremely intrigued. There’s much else to explore, though, and the musicians are not shy in attempting different routes, all leading to a single result: the expression of simple rhythmic and melodic concepts through a superior level of restrained interplay.

Either walking across intense abstraction (the impressive opening track “Inside The Glade” is, purely and simply, a masterpiece of concerned waiting and unsettled thoughts) or examining the details of metrical interlocking almost to the point of ritualism (“The Pump”, “The Eastern Corner”), WHO always manage to look unique even by maintaining the instrumental gradations virtually untouched. “Wedding Suite” may appear as a straightforward song yet it is full of dissonance – of the digestible kind - especially remarked by the ever-interesting, outside-the-canon figurations played by Wintsch, whose style is reserved and intelligently comprehensible at once, altered melodies and harmonic cleverness bathed in inspired suggestion. Banz sounds prosperous or emaciated depending on the context, the focus remaining on the sensible aspects of structural stability. Hemingway offers a great proof of sensitive drumming throughout, the subtlety of his percussive interventions during the most rarefied sections a lesson of self-discipline that many bangers should learn.

Don’t be fooled into thinking about ECM or similar comparisons: despite a graceful confidence and the total mastery of the tools at their disposal, these men’s music is a refined blend of sensitiveness and, at times, visionary drive that does not need the support of a church’s reverberation to affirm its durability in the listener’s memory.