[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(69:34, Fazzul Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Opening with Objects 7:43 2. Perpetuum 7:52 3. OG 12:03 4. More Memories 8:50 5. Little Fragment 5:21 6. Surinam 11:35 7. For Jean 6:09 8. Kater Carlo 7:43 9. Alone at Lost and Found 2:18 LINEUP: Markus Stauss – sax Damien Campion – bass Laurent Delchambre – drums; electronics Michel Delville - guitar, guitar synth; electronics
Prolusion. The multi-national ensemble TRANK ZAPPA GRAPPA IN VARESE (TZGIV hereafter) is a constellation, featuring Swiss saxophone virtuoso Markus Stauss and Belgian musicians Damien Champion, Laurent Delchambre and Michel Delville, the last two also active in fusion band The Wrong Object. TZGIV is a side project for all the participants, and it has so far issued two official albums and one demo CD-R, all of them live recordings. "More Light" is the first of its official productions and was released by the Swiss label Fazzul Music in 2008.
Analysis. As a service to the reader, I will start this section by entering four descriptive words for this production: improvisational, avant-garde, free-form, fusion. These are key features of this band and this CD, featuring live performances recorded in Belgium and the Netherlands in November 2007. The material at hand is very much of a challenging variety and at times rather complex as well. And in general not adhering to standards either, which should make it a curious experience for those with a dedicated interest in avant-garde Jazz. The choice of moniker for this ensemble signifies connections to the late great Frank Zappa, and in scope I would guess most references are directed towards the more experimental part of his corpus. The stylistic territory covered here may be too jazz-oriented to make any direct comparisons with ease, but the guitar work in particular made me draw some associations along the way. Dedicated Zappa followers will most likely find more references. As for the material itself, these efforts all follow a rather similar structure. One or two themes are set up initially, followed by an elongated segment featuring improvisational wanderings and individual instrumental soloing, and towards the end the band returns to the initial theme(s). The parts of the compositions adhering to a more structured approach are generally interesting and intriguing creations, with Stauss' virtuoso saxophone on top of the most often energetic guitar work of Delville - providing the dominating textures - while drums and bass set up a firm foundation, more often than not of a heavily jazz-inspired nature. The improvised parts aren't too intriguing though, and whether or not you'll like or even love this disc is very much a result of whether or not those sequences will interest you. Technically this is brilliant material. The musicians are all masters of their craft, and they showcase their ability to conjure up unexpected sounds in a manner which most likely will impress most if not all fans of instrument explorations. But as impressive as the technical aspect of these improvised features are, the musical side is more of a bumpy ride as far as I'm concerned. The first half of the album in particular tends to rather extensively emphasize excursions where non-melodic, dissonant and cacophonous traits are highlighted. Too much so for my musical taste buds, probably because my main impression is that these ventures are individual showcasing more than a band effort as such. The second half of this CD, starting with Little Fragment, is far more interesting in that respect. With a slightly lessened emphasis on the non-melodic dimensions and with much more of a band feeling also in the improvised parts, with bassist Campion and sax player Stauss in particular adding textures and subtle sounds that in effect manage to create the impression that even the wildest individual excursions are part of the collective whole. The aforementioned Little Fragment and Kater Carlo are the most successful in that respect to my ears, and due to that also the most interesting efforts on a production that left me hot and cold in just about equal measure.
Conclusion. "More Light" is a creation that will bring just that into the lives of those who truly love material of a highly challenging nature. If dissonance, non-melodic, avant-garde and jazz are words you love encountering when reading about an artist, Trank Zappa Grappa in Varese is a band that should cater for your musical needs in a big way. In particular if a free-form jazz approach and style is regarded as a bonus feature.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 18, 2010
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]