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



The Time

Leszek Możdżer – piano
Lars Danielsson – bass
Zohar Fresco – percussion,vocals

Outside Music OMCD001 [56:36]

 

 

 



Asta    
Incognitor  
Sortorello  
Tsunami  
The Time 
Asta II 
Easy Money 
Smells Like Teen Spirit 
Svantetic  
Suffering  
Trip To Bexbach 
Asta III 
Suffering (Bonus Track)  

 

Released in 2005, The Time received a double-platinum award for selling more than 20.000 copies within two month of being released. So, if you don’t already own this album, my first question has to be, why not?

I first came across Leszek Możdżer and Lars Danielsson on their excellent duo album Pasodoble, and many of the qualities on that album are equalled and surpassed on The Time, due in part to the addition of the sensitive and musically enthralling contribution of percussionist Zohar Fresco. The creative drive behind many of the compositions on this album is down to either Możdżer of Danielsson, but the sense of collective musicianship means that the character of each piece is very much dictated by a unity of sound and equality of contribution which rises above the common jazz tradition of composed hook, followed by a row of more or less tediously ego-trip solos.

There are a number of highlights for me on this disc, but the main attraction for me is in fact the thematic ‘ritornello’ quality between many of the tracks, anchored by the Asta series – each being a kind of variation around a certain kind of harmonic nuance, while at the same time possessing plenty of individual character and contrast. The opening of the first Asta has some of that open-landscape feel, with Danielsson’s bass sounding like the song of a whale, and Możdżer’s piano the sparkling waves above. The soulful main theme, sung in the distance by Fresco, sums up the feel of the album – restrained and lyrical, and like much good music possessing melancholy and a spirit of underlying joy at the same time. This is reinforced by the majestic Incognator, which mirrors the descending bass of the previous track with a gorgeous rising progression.

A change of pace kicks in with the folk-like Sortorello, which fuses a medieval dance with the trio’s unique idiom: providing the musicians with a vehicle for some more improvisatory playing. With Tsunami we arrive at another track which has me groping for superlatives. Monumental and disturbing in its simple, sometimes chorale-like lines, I can imagine this expressing all kinds of things to all kinds of people. The relatively brief title track The Time is another confluence of shade and subtlety, drawing lines of music together like the laces of your favourite old shoes – the ones which fit perfectly, and which you never want to throw out.

After a reprise and development of the opening track in Asta II in which Danielsson performs some expressive pizzicato on the cello, we have another swinging track in Easy Money, in which the colourful instrumentation and lightness of touch of Zohar Fresco’s percussion plays an important role. Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit might seem like a unusual number to include here, but the arrangement suits this trio like a hand in a glove, the simplicity of the central progression being richly transformed and providing a rolling groove for some refined improvisation. Even when this trio is improvising it somehow sounds composed – by which I don’t mean contrived or restricted – it’s just the way they do things: highly controlled, detailed, meticulously measured and prepared, but going beyond extravagant technical fireworks and exploring more deeply into real music making. This is also true of Krzysztof Komeda’s Svantetic, the trio paying tribute to this legend of Polish jazz with a reasonably straight rendition of what should be more of a classic number outside Poland.

Suffering subdues the piano with damped strings, overdubbing Danielsson’s cello with simultaneous pizzicato and bowed notes. Fresco’s percussion has an ethnic colour in this music, but no member of his battery of exotic instruments is allowed to become an overbearing feature of this music. Like all good percussionists, he knows the value of stable but interesting rhythm, picking out character in the music through the variety of accents and touches on his simple but beautifully constructed hand-held drum. The final notes of Suffering run straight into the freely improvised opening to Trip to Bexach, which soon becomes an infectious, dancing number in which the left hand of Możdżer’s piano is damped, most of the melody allowed to sing free to magical effect. The final Asta III initially turns the piano into an autoharp – I do love Możdżer’s creativity with the piano. Danielsson is again on cello here, and Fresco adds fresh-air sparkle with light cymbal touches, bringing the album full-circle with a sung conclusion. The added bonus version of Suffering, a sort of fun out-take, is like the encore to a live concert – something which one can take or leave, but is something of an indulgence on what is otherwise an immaculately turned record.

With demonstration - analogue, the label is marked AAD - sound quality and superb design and presentation, this is a must-have for any lovers of good music – whatever he genre. Have a look at the beautiful Outside Music website and listen to a few of the sound samples if you need any further convincing.

Dominy Clements

 



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