top floor encounter


Mit Spielwitz, Humor und einem Gespür für die Wirren des Miteinander spielt das Trio dichten und abwechslungsreichen Improv. Manchmal stottern Percussion und Sax im Wettkampf, um von dickbäuchigen Basstönen ausgebremst zu werden...mehr - nur einer der witzigen Momente der CD. Titel wie "Quickie" (Laufzeit 15 Sekunden) tun ihr übriges dazu.

Yves / auf abwegen

C'est à l'initiative de Dietrich Eichmann qu'est né le label indépendant allemand Oaksmus. Il faut souligner tout d'abord l'audace de cet amateur de musique en marge de proposer le projet qu'il nous est donné d'entendre aujourd'hui, tant la production devient difficile dans le jazz. Enregistré live à Berlin, Top Floor Encounter, réunit trois jeunes musiciens qui ont en eux le souci permanent de construire quelque chose de neuf en tenant compte de la personnalité de chacun. Pas d'étalage technique, de jeu joué à l'énergie ou d'hyperboles. La tension naît de l'échange et de l'écoute. La musique se bâtit ainsi en atmosphères sans qu'un leader n'initie le mouvement ou n'oriente le jeu vers telle ou telle piste mais en laissant chacun apporter sa touche à l'oeuvre en construction. John Hugues et Jeff Arnal se sont rencontrés en 1995 à l'université de Baltimore dans le Maryland. Jeff y étudiait alors la composition et la musique nouvelle avec Stuart Saunders Smith. Tous deux participaient parallèlement aux sessions données par le poly-instrumentiste John Dierker. Lorsque John Hugues quitta les Etats-Unis pour venir s'installer à Hambourg en 1999, il eu l'occasion de jouer à plusieurs reprises avec le saxophoniste Lars Scherzberg, développant avec lui quelques idées abordées avec Jeff Arnal. Top Floor Encounter réunit pour la première fois ces trois instrumentistes ; le projet semble pourtant issu d'une longue maturation de la musique, c'est-à-dire que l'entente est parfaite. Il devient rare de voir se forger des projets aussi aboutis dès la première rencontre. Lars, John et Jeff s'imposent comme des musiciens à suivre et pas uniquement parce qu'ils proposent des pistes nouvelles.

Sebastien Moig / Jazzosphère

The Scherzberg/Hughes/Arnal trio plays fully unstructured music having a serrated and stimulating edge. The unique tonality derives from the high-pitched voice of Scherzberg's alto, which is pitted against the bass of Hughes, who covers both ends of the spectrum, and the foundational drumming of Arnal. The recording was captured live at a Berlin concert and is documentation of the interrelated responsiveness of the three musicians. They develop a framework of atonal sound that comes together as the product of a completed jigsaw puzzle. The music is presented in broken, somewhat staccato fragments. Scherzberg rations notes from his horn in squeaky, stingy parcels. He ekes out strident rounds of jarring phrases, which sets the pattern for the stark progressions that evolve from the three artists.
Hughes adeptly uses the bow to match the upper tonality of Scherzberg's alto, and then he slips down the scale using conventional fingering to add dashes of density to the session. Arnal scrapes and scratches at the drum skins to inject his responses to the conversation, but he also takes the music up a level by achieving a more percussive asymmetric beat. Often the drum rims and cymbals serve his purpose of coating the spontaneous ideas gurgling from the alto and being reshaped through the bass. Although there is not defined flow to the music, it has a continuity built on the simultaneously evolving vocabulary of this difficult language. When all the words are assimilated, they become a form of prose that is intelligible though not easily grasped. This is heady music that places demands on the listener to complete the communication loop.

Frank Rubolino / Cadence Magazine

Is Top Floor Encounter part of the revenge of Generation Y musicians?
For the past 15 years or so, Gen X jazzers -- the so-called young lions -- have dominated the musical agenda, limiting improvisation to that involving swing, tonality and conventional interaction. But now, as many of the young lions are revealed to be little more than toothless tigers, even younger players are throwing those conventions aside and discovering how such techniques as speech-like inflection and dissonance, first utilized by neo-con mocked avant gardists gives them additional freedom.
The two American and one German musician featured here, who are all on either side of 30, demonstrate how well this rediscovered musical independence can be used.
Link between sensibilities, is American bassist John Hughes, 29. While going to university in Baltimore he was part of an shifting group of experimental improvisers, which included drummer Jeff Arnal, 30. Arnal, who studied composition at the University of Baltimore also played with Vattel Cherry, a former Charles Gayle sideman, with whom Hughes studied bass. Moving to Hamburg in 1999, he began an association with local alto saxophonist Lars Scherzberg, 29. When Arnal visited Germany in the summer of 2000 the three got together to record this skillful CD.
Existing in a common improv zone, where they're certainly not a group, but no longer strangers, the three range through a mixed program rooted firmly in what could be called the EuroImprov tradition.
Although working in the time-honored horn and rhythm section trio preferred by committed jazz saxophonists as different as Ornette Coleman and Branford Marsalis, this is no soloist-plus-back-up date.
Instead what you see is what you get: three young musicians working together to achieve a certain congruence and mutual solving of different theoretical challenges. Although the sleeve lists nine selections, you could just as easily see the entire disc as one subdivided suite. Flowing one tune into another, only interrupted near the end for some scattered applause from the small audience, this is music of diminutive hand movements and quick responses.
Scherzberg, a saxophone student of King Übü mainman Wolgang Fuchs, plays in a style that implies sounds as much as expels them. A compendium of extended techniques, his favorites seem to be rolling flutter tonguing, false fingering and protracted pain-flecked shrieks. Near the end he does try some honking as well as circular breathing, but that's also the only time anything resembling a regular plucked bass pulse appears.
Reticent most of the time, Hughes usually confines himself to lightening quick arco attacks, quick bass guitar-like strums or bass stave accents. While Arnal, favoring brushes, mostly confines himself to the lightest parts of his kit, sometime introducing the odd bell-like cymbal tone.
Having set out their parameters, the three still reveal themselves Gen Yers on most pieces and the CD itself really lack a definitive ending. But, then again, who beside the neo-cons ever assumed that a young musician's definitive statement was made first time out? Extraordinary improvisation comes from many years of familiarity with your own instrument and your thoughts about music making.
This encounter is a fine record of a stop along that road. As the promise exhibited here is realized, the three may arrive at a place that's even higher than the top floor.

Ken Waxman / Jazz Weekly


by oaksmus