Ni Kantu review by Clifford Allen

HNH presents a trio format unique though not unheard-of in jazz and creative improvised music, that of trumpet, bass and drums. There are precedents, for sure – German trumpeter Manfred Schoof had his New Jazz Trio with bassist Peter Trunk and drummer Cees See, and Bill Dixon worked regularly in the format, especially in the 1980s. Current Dixonian torchbearer Taylor Ho Bynum just recorded a set with drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist John Hebert (Book of Three, Rogue Art). So for sure, this group has kin though we can effectively count them on one hand. Germans Hertenstein, Niggenkemper and Heberer (drums, bass and quarter-tone trumpet, respectively) all now call New York home at least some of the time, and Heberer is probably the most well-known of the three, having worked frequently with the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra (Holland) and the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. With the exception of Heberer’s closing “The Tolliver Toll” (for hardbop trumpeter-composer Charles Tolliver), all of the pieces work together as an uninterrupted suite, with the trumpeter and the drummer sharing most compositional credits.

Heberer has always been an interesting force in the ICP Orchestra – younger than most of the band, his steely classicism and erudite concentration sticks out from the painterly theatrics of figures like Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink and Tristan Honsinger. That’s probably part of the point, as much as the group was a collision of personalities as well as musical-historical impulses. He’s in good company here, as Hertenstein and Niggenkemper retain loose, tumbling precision in cool rhythmic telepathy. In the closing moments of “Screw the Pendulum” and the short “Glulan,” Heberer’s movement is towards biting multiphonics and metallic circular chuffs, a maximum made from micro-sounds a la Axel Dorner and Nate Wooley. He takes a crisp, Baroque tone and teases it with barbed blats, then lilts poignantly over spare tom flecks and pizzicato mapping in the boppish “Paul’s Age.” Sharp, gutty maneuvers from Niggenkemper’s bow alongside Heberer’s valve highlights, shrikes and pirouettes outline an improvisation on “Doin’ the Do,” which cycles into a taut, vamp-heavy tune halfway through. Enough can’t be said about the toe-tapping swing of Hertenstein and Niggenkemper – the drummer has the subtle complexity of an Ed Blackwell, able to patch infectious rhythms into the most abstract of group improvisations. HNH is definitely the kind of hip little record that might easily pass one by (especially in the vast Clean Feed catalog), but it’s well worth a second look.

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