..."Last Stroke" imagines Alice Coltrane's Journey to Satchinanda played on a derelict...
Peter Marsh 2002
The most successful attempts at integrating jazz improvisation with electronics and dance rhythms seem to be coming from Europe, as critic Stuart Nicholson pointed out in the New York times last year to much derision from American jazz fans. Whereas much American attempts at fusing jazz with drum n bass or whatever have merely consisted of realtime playing grafted on to emasculated beats, European musicians seem to engage much more with their material, with arguably more interesting results; Tied and Tickled Trio, Conjoint, Spring Heel Jack and Nils Petter Molvaer have all made significant inroads in this area.
Bugge Wesseltoft's Jazzland label is a hotbed of such activity, with Wesseltoft's Moving, Eivind Aarset's solo recordings and now the intriguingly named Wibutee all hitting the spot of late. While Jazzland's press releases are somewhat overripe with hyperbole (witness Wesseltoft's own modest New Conception of Jazz) Wibutee have managed to carve out their own niche in the new 'acceptable face of fusion'.
A trio of reeds, bass, drums augmented with two sampler/programmers, Eight Domestic Challenges is a pile up of twitchy funk beats, juicy dubs, edgy ambient electronics and restrained improvising, stitched together with a keen ear for texture and dynamics. The harmonically ambiguous basslines, plus the bittersweet saxes and fluteonet (sounds just like it reads) of Håkon Kornstad recall the open ended grooves of early 70's Weather Report or Herbie Hancocks Mwandishi group.
Wibutee share the same exploratory approach to their material as the early fusioneers, though obviously with the benefit of digital jiggery pokery; the infectiously propulsive dubbed out funk of "Herbs and Heights" morphs into clunking slo-mo ethnic beats, while "First There Was Jazz" offers up a stomping, four to the floor excursion into technojazz that could be filling the dancefloor at the next Molde jazz festival. Here Kornstad's tenor strains to break free from the click, firing off ecstatic blasts and righteous honks, spinning off into flurries of reverb. Brilliant stuff. The closing "Last Stroke" imagines Alice Coltrane's Journey to Satchinanda played on a derelict space station by a bunch of manic depressives, with Kornstad's pained soprano a highlight. Throughout the saxophonist eschews the obvious, opting for restraint or curiously oblique phrases rather than motivic development.
"Up and Away" is less successful, substituting diffused sonics for thematic development, but the arid dubscape of "Dubelec" shows the likes of Bill Laswell where to get off. Lazy appropriation isnt on display here; Wibutee's trips rarely outstay their welcome, crammed with sonic detail and luscious grooves a plenty. Lovely.