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(60:00, Fazzul Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. OG 9:46 2. Looking 4 8:16 3. Echoes 9:56 4. Deep Inside 10:55 5. Slow Waves 4:00 6. Another Sad Song 8:41 7. Perpetuum 7:54 LINEUP: Markus Stauss – tenor, soprano & bass saxophones Olivier Vogt – viola & violin Hans Anliker – trombone Pit Kayser – keyboards
Prolusion. With this review I continue exploring the creative legacy of Swiss saxophonist and songwriter Markus Stauss, a mastermind behind several (mainly international) ensembles and projects. The 60-minute “Echoes” is the sole output by THE MARKUS STAUSS QUARTET, issued in 1999.
Analysis. This CD is comprised of seven tracks, the majority of which were already released on the other albums featuring the maestro. However, this is not a mere compilation, as the compositions are either totally reworked or heavily re-arranged, all adapted for playing by a group whose configuration does not include the use of a rhythm section. Indeed, what the material in hand represents is overall chamber music, almost purely acoustic, featuring fewer typically jazz elements than any of the other outings with Markus’ participation that I’ve heard. Another notable distinction here is the use of keyboards, and also a tendency to utilize more subdued and purely melodic passages within the compositions as contrast to, say, the man’s trademark jazz-inspired explorations. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on the disc opener OG, a melodic, yet pleasingly complex piece of orthodox classical music, sounding almost like a requiem in places (as a few more of the compositions do as well). Then follows Looking 4, the sole track on the album that is clearly jazzy in nature. Jovial in mood, it’s a rather repetitive tune, using a simple swingy groove as its basis, the rhythm distinctive and almost physically perceptible, in spite of the absence of drums. This is a long album; it would have lost nothing if the piece hadn’t been included, but would’ve been much more coherent instead, especially since the other five tracks all have a lot in common between them. Echoes and Perpetuum both sound like classic Art Zoyd with not even a hint of an electronic feel or rather like early (circa 1977) Univers Zero without a guitar and a rhythm section alike, the group acting with the finesse that, well, only established musical acts do possess. The saxophones, trumpet, violin and piano are all played unusual here, and only the synthesizer layers can be regarded as normal. As to the remaining three tracks, Deep Inside, Slow Waves and Another Sad Song, I’ll try to generalize what they’re musically about within a single sentence, above all because they are similar creations. All of them now also navigate through old-school Chamber Rock/RIO-evoking passages, now find the quartet approaching composition from an angle such that the division between arrangements and improvisation becomes imperceptibly blurred, only occasionally veering towards the jazz axis that typifies most of Stauss’ other creations.
Conclusion. This set of interpretations of Markus’ older pieces is marked by a truly innovative approach to their reading and remarkable performing aesthetics as well, the ensemble never losing focus of the inherent coherency of their compositions. I would have rated the album as a masterwork if the musicians had always acted as they are, i.e. as a quartet, whilst there are quite a few moves on it (on each of the tracks, in fact) that only feature two of them, on average.
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