Marlbank | Frank Gratkowski – Tender Mercies

We don’t usually comment on cover art but make an exception here as the design and paintings, glance above, are beautiful. The music as you might guess given the visual clues is highly modernistic and avant-garde and just as appealing. We have been listening to music by veteran German reedist Frank Gratkowski for years and even more regularly by the equally prolific pianist Simon Nabatov. Recording as so often at the Loft venue in Cologne there is an intricacy in what Nabatov in a duo setting achieves. And while some passages can be wild and hugely exuberant there is a lot of thought in the compositional design of the album and you get a grandeur that you don’t always obtain from free-jazz. When Gratkowski switches especially to flute or clarinet it’s as if new possibilities arise and you get a serene sensitivity on ‘Surfaces’ for example. Stimulating overall, not for the faint hearted (there aren’t any tunes you can whistle as you wend your way home) – however the deliberate mayhem of the final track is far less appealing. Whether you call Tender Mercies ”classical/contemporary”, ”improvised music/jazz” or choose any other generic labelling to blithely fandango about, matters not one jot if you get the duo’s essential drift.


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