By Chris Monsen
There was a time when it was perceived particularly important distinguishing European free jazz from its American origins. Certainly, one can still make generalizations for each of them, such as thematic focal points and clearer rhythmic progress in the US compared to a greater degree of improv for European players – if you want to separate them.
Distinct examples still confirm that the differences exist, but as musical expressions happily inspire each other,
proved by fruitful musical collaboration across the Atlantic; such as the outstanding trio with Peter Brötzmann, William Parker and Hamid Drake.
One can also refer to releases such as the marvelous duo album “Welcome Back” by Irène Schweizer and Han Bennink, reviewd in this paper earlier this autumn, where characteristics from American, European and South African jazz are interwoven superbly.
“Vibrate in Sympathy,” the new album by German-born reed player Tobias Klein, Portuguese bassist Gonçalo Almeida and Dutch veteran drummer Martin van Duynhoven, is clearly influenced by American innovators, occasionally even explicitly. Being open and spirited characterizes much of experimental jazz in the Netherlands, where both Klein and Almeida now reside.
Also noticeably, this album contains compositions dedicated to Ornette Coleman (the closing title track), Oliver Lake (“Lakeish”, with its surprising tempo changes and teasing alto saxophone theme in the foreground), and Henry Threadgill, the opening track “Threadbare”. The latter melody seems to be a nod to Threadgills own “Bermuda Blues” but also points to his legendary trio Air.
A swaggering, bluesy and loose structure characterizes several of the compositions, thanks to van Duynhovens lovely laid-back swing, a drumming style that seems to be typical for a lot of Dutch jazz. Almeida has a deep bass tone that often highlights the woody sound of the instrument, both when playing pizzicato or arco.
Klein alternates between the alto saxophone, bass- and contrabass clarinet, and is – like the whole trio by the way – patiently but boldly
in the game, whether in spots like “Gneiss”,sprinting off irascibly in the advancing “Werg”, or more contemplative and serious, as in “Crime & Punishment”.
On “Vibrate in Sympathy”, Klein contemplates music that is inspired by “all kinds of free, adventurous music from the last 50 years.” It is admirable of him lay all cards on the table, but one should not underestimate that, with three musicians
bringing in their respective, different methods, together the inspiration unfolds into something distinct and fascinating.