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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

"Between Us and the Time" Live

Leszek Możdżer – piano, celesta, keyboards
Lars Danielsson – cello, bass
Zohar Fresco – percussion,vocals
Outside Music OMCD 004 [66:57] DVD 001 [ca.130:00]




Light Up The Lie
Ex Ego
The O    
Abraham’s Bells
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Rec. The Fabryka Trcziny Artistic Center, November 29, 2006
Part One "Between Us and The Light"
Requiem 18/09
Light Up The Lie
Ex Ego
The O
Abraham’s Bells
Pub 700 (Between Us And The Light)
So What
Rec. The Wroclow Movie Making Hall, November 24, 2006 [64:55]
Part Two "The Time"
Easy Money
The Time
Smells Like Teen Spirit 
Rec. The Polish Baltic F. Chopin Philharmonic, Gdansk, December 15, 2005 [55:27]

This live CD and DVD set pretty much sums up the content of this trio’s two releases from Outside Music, presenting almost all of the tracks from those albums at three live concerts in Poland. One might think that doubling up on some of these numbers, not only from the studio albums but also presented in multiple versions on this live set, might be subject to the law of diminishing returns. These musicians are however more than creative enough to adapt to their environment, and like all such projects, the pieces alter and evolve each time they appear, so that differences both subtle and dramatic can be expected, and are delivered.

Starting with the CD, sound quality is excellent, and it sounds as if the audience spend most of their time in rapt silence, with applause and whoops only between numbers with the exception of the rousing Sartorello. Some, like The O and Abraham’s Bells run on into each other, making for extended concert movements like a classical concerto. Możdżer has a number of keyboard effects at his disposal, and the colours and variety in his playing is a central feature as ever. One sound appeals less than the others however, with what sounds like a highly amplified Stylophone in Ex Ego, which would be fine if the thing wasn’t so badly out of tune. For a few moments it gives the weird dual effect of sounding like an ethnic reed wind instrument of some kind, the Rolf Harris snake charmer, but it is clashes with the piano so badly and is so hard-edged in the balance that I for one was glad when it stopped. There are plenty of subtle atmospheric noises from both keyboard, and from Danielsson in Suffering, where the cello lays down an acoustic bed of sound for that gorgeous pizzicato solo. Eden is always a favourite, and sparkles and dances in this performance. Smells Like Teen Spirit, a highlight from ‘The Time’ is a well chosen conclusion, this time with a fine and wild piano improvisation from Możdżer breaking loose from the otherwise introverted arrangement, and allowing it to finish in solid rock’n roll style.

With the title pages heavily larded with the hypnotic opening to Requiem 19/09, the DVD presents two concerts which avoid overlaps and repetition in terms of the numbers presented. Some care and expert attention has been given to the lighting of the set, with colourfully lit neutral backdrops providing depth and different ambiences for each piece. There are numerous and imaginative camera angles employed, and the ability to see Zohar Fresco’s exotic percussion at work is a particular joy, especially for someone like me who has not long been involved in ‘world’ music. It is also fascinating to see Możdżer’s abilities at playing more than one keyboard at once – melodies in both right and left hand tripping out with equal ease and finesse. As expected, there isn’t a great deal of extrovertly flamboyant showmanship, but the internal dynamics of a group in tune and at one with each other’s musicianship is always a thrill to see. They are all serious men at work, but also always enjoying the experience and revelling in the ‘live’ setting – the camera sometimes interestingly focussing as much on the other players watching, fascinated, as one or other of their colleagues creates a unique solo. The ‘Stylophone’ Możdżer uses in Ex Ego turns out to be a mini-keyboard which looks as if it might be a child’s toy, and Danielsson’s facial expressions might suggest he is tolerating it rather than enjoying the sound – no, it’s a joke, but while these are fun moments Zawinul’s ‘crazy’ sounds are better – I think Możdżer might need to find a new toy for this number. Seeing Danielsson’s expertise with a bow, making the bass sound as lyrical as a cello, is also something to behold.

Presentation isn’t always something ‘jazz’ musicians seem to hold with much regard, but this trio – for these recordings at least – know the value of making the concert look good as well as sound wonderful. The second part of the DVD covers music from ‘The Time’, and again it is a treat to see how some of the effects are made for real. The Chopin Philharmonic in Gdansk has the musicians ‘in the round’, so that the colour backdrop is in fact the audience, the variety of perspectives giving an interestingly surreal, almost disembodied effect at times. Sortorello is a fine number in this concert, with Możdżer’s solo containing a real sense of on-the-spot musical discovery, and Danielsson’s wah-wah bass adding a fresh colour to the whole thing, which is an extended romp which everyone seems to enjoy to the full. The title track The Time renews the fascination this number can generate, with some gorgeous harmonic wrinkles which seem to grow like a twining vine out of Możdżer’s flamboyant disregard for the classical composer’s forbidden terrain of parallel fifths. OK, so it’s a colour added to the moving bass line, like the added fifth in an organ registration, but you still have to come up with something like that – I haven’t heard fifths used so effectively since Don Ellis’s ‘Electric bath’. There is one bit of visual fun on this DVD: at 43:11 or so on the Gdansk concert you clearly see Fresco going for one of his small cymbals and missing – giving the thing a subsequent glance, just to make sure it’s still where he thought it was. A far as extras go, there are some personal comments on the albums covered by these live concerts, and some footage of the trio setting up and doing sound-checks for the Wroclaw concert – including some nice moments of free improvisation.

I have but one practical criticism. The packaging is lovely, but the sleeves in which the discs are housed are ‘fixed’ at the bottom with a rubbery glue which initially made the discs hard to remove, and thereafter proved a persistent nuisance, getting smeared all one’s your nice new purchase and giving rise to stress and ire. I suspect it may be too late to do anything about this, but it may be a useful point to bear in mind for the future – and at least there is one thing certain about this label and these artists: they both deserve a very bright future indeed.

Dominy Clements


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