The Free Jazz Blog – Baloni – Ripples (LP) ****½


By Martin Schray

When I saw Baloni at Munich’s Offene Ohren (German for “Open Ears”) jazz club in April this year I was surprised by the development the trio has made. I had seen them two years before and thought that they were a good but not an excellent formation. But in the meantime they have become extraordinary, especially due to the facts that they seem to know each other even better, that they listen to each other very closely so that they are obviously able to react, and that they have a desire to risk something with their music. The musicianship has always been excellent, their improvising is a natural flow and the various timbre explorations are really gripping. And like the various timbres the musicians come from various European countries: Belgian reedist Joachim Badenhorst, French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot and German-French bassist Pascal Niggenkemper met in New York and started their project in order to explore the wide field of the classical contemporary format and the driving force of improvisation.

From the start their albums were fascinating, Fremdenzimmer and Belleke were discussed very friendly on this blog, and Ripples is even raising the bar. In general their style is infused with Baroque and modern classical music as well as the sound of jazz pioneers like Jimmy Giuffre or Joëlle Léandre. Based on these influences they have created something unique. There are enormous contrasts in dynamics, emotions and sound, on the one hand the instruments literally seem to surpass each other in furiousness and on the other hand they present moments of incredible privacy (Badenhorst and Loriot at the end of “De Rimpelingen Des Levens” (The Ripples of Life)). The music swells and ebbs – actually the album rather sounds like “waves” instead of “ripples”.

Like on his extraordinary solo album Look With Thine Ears Niggenkemper adds his very own sound to the trio, using different material he puts between the strings his bass reminds of a didgeridoo or a percussion instrument, for example in “Grüne Welle” (Green Wave). Then again he switches to long bowed notes which go along with Loriot’s viola very nicely, while Badenhorst’s bass clarinet provides dark sounds. In “De Rimpelingen Des Levens” , the final and most exciting track of the album, Badenhorst’s tenor starts with clicking sounds before he turns to almost cool-jazz-like melodies in front of the typical textures Niggenkemper and Loriot display. Then the track squirms in agony and especially the last part reminds of György Ligeti’s “Atmosphères”.

Ripples was recorded live at Exploratorium, Berlin on April 11th, 2013, it is a wonderful chamber jazz recording and another proof for the marvelous output Clean Feed has had this year. As many very good albums it becomes more interesting the more often you listen to it.

Ripples is available on vinyl only.

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