Studio Dan



JazzWord, Ken Waxman, 2021-02-01

[...] An encouraging sign of more open musical criteria, these engrossing sessions certify that the repeated assertions by Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) members that their compositions are more than “Jazz” is becoming widely accepted. Half the program of each of these non-AACM and notated music leaning ensembles is given over to creations by two AACM composers. Axioms // 75 AB includes five 1970s pieces by Anthony Braxton interpreted by the Boston ensemble Tropos. Meanwhile one of the two compositions played by Vienna’s nine-piece Studio Dan is George Lewis’ As We May Feel,” given the same respectful treatment and at almost equal length as “Wow and Flutter”, written by Köln-based Belarusian composer Oxana Omelchuk.

[...] Founded in 2005 and committed to experimental music from both the notated and improvised sides, Studio Dan works to interpret Lewis’ through composed work, with just enough aleatoric emphasis to suggest indeterminacy in his precise assemblage. Moving among rugged percussion slabs, high-pitched string variations and fluttering cries from the horns, an initial sound explosion is soon replaced by multiphonic cross pulses between Daniel Riegler’s buzzing trombone splatters and Thomas Frey delicate flute puffs. With Michael Tiefenbacher’s piano tickles making the plain background more level, space is created for the horns’ carefree exuberance. Tougher in its concluding sequence, “As We May Feel” due to harder percussion slaps and double-stopping strings, plunger brass notes and whiny string slices define the diminuendo in intensity with Dominik Fuss’s muted trumpet positioning adumbrating the calming piano ending.

With its snatch of pseudo-Dixieland brassiness and a penultimate section which introduces a sample of Bessie Smith singing with a primitive trumpet obbligato, Omelchuk’s “Wow and Flutter” is superficially more so-called Jazz than Lewis’ piece. Part of this arises from Riegler being joined by guest trombonist Matthias Muche, an experienced improviser. With two trombone soloists, more verve is brought to the capillary exposition. Staccato string swipes, patterning drumming, horn puffs and a moderated swing orientation animate the performance. Post-modern variations in the score are as audible as the Trad Jazz affectations though. Besides interjections by scratchily recorded European operatic voices, one sequence aims so close to Arcadian marching band music that it suggests Charles Ives. With vibrations and smears issuing from all the horn players, the ambulatory theme is preserved despite sonic detours. Crucially orchestral stasis is preserved up to and including the finale.

Not only exemplary music, these discs confirm the idea that so-called serious music will be enriched with many more timbral flavors as the 21st Century advances.