FUSK – Super Kasper (2013)

To paraphrase Joe Lovano, FUSK doesn’t so much play free jazz, as set jazz free. Performing Super Kasper in a series of first takes, with three tracks presented as complete improvisations, this amalgam is simply too enterprising to fit into any one category. Call it FUSK jazz, if you like.

Beginning with “Musik 1.0,” composed by Denmark-born drummer Kasper Tom Christiansen, the group sets a tone of expectation-melting excitement. Philipp Gropper and Rudi Mahall, both from Germany, offer knotty accompaniment on saxophone and bass clarinet, respectively – sometimes playing in tandem, but often flushing out into wide open spaces. The track gains momentum, reaching a plangent pace, before Danish bassist Andreas Lang pulls “Musik 1.0” back toward a more contemplative cadence. Gropper and Mahall conclude by tangling and untangling again, even as Christiansen creates concentric circles of sound around them.

Pulse-quickening without slipping into hyperactivity, arhythmical without losing a sense of propulsion, “Musik 1.0” sets a course for exploration on Super Kasper – and FUSK races forward.

“Lauft,” which Christiansen co-wrote with the group, is the project’s initial improvisation. Gropper (Philm) complex runs are brilliantly juxtaposed by these sheets of sound from Mahall (Lee Konitz, Globe Unity Orchestra, Karl Berger), even as Christiansen and Lang create a boiling percussive counterpoint. Christiansen’s “Lufthafen” finds Gropper and Mahall again playing with uncanny accord, at least to start. After asserting an asymmetrical opening theme, Mahall begins exploring a series of trills – and soon Lang and then Christiansen make a smoke-filled entrance. Before long, they are all working in pointillistic refinement – turning small, precise sounds into a larger mosaic of textures and tones.

“Suburbia Surreal,” also written by Christensten, begins with a shrill outburst, before trickling away like a fast-moving stream. Eventually, FUSK settles into a something approximating a serrated groove. Like Ornette Coleman at his best, it’s challenging, and yet rhythmically adroit. Meanwhile, Christiansen’s “De 12 Bud” (which translates from Danish into “the 12 commandments”), again deftly sidesteps the expectations of so-called free jazz. Rather than simply gearing up for another round of ceaseless blasting, FUSK builds from a foundation of circuitous, late-night murmurings. There is a certain off-kilter chaos to anything this contemporary, but FUSK shows that it can create in an atmosphere without replicating the ferocity of, say, Peter Brotzmann – as on “Odpowiednio,” the second band-written improv piece. An almost impish joy surrounds this spare cacophony.

Of course, their intensity and sure-footedness certainly comes in handy when FUSK decides to let it rip, which is exactly what happens late in the proceedings during “Isst doch Wurst,” another Christian original. Hair-raising, and then harrumphing, the track is a raw, layered, madcap experience. “Booze,” meanwhile, builds outward from a crepuscular base, with Gropper and Mahall offering these stoic, hard-won lines before Christiansen takes an eruptive solo. When the horns return, it is with a scalding new sense of purpose. “Funf Sechs alte Keks,” the final all-improvisational number of Super Kasper, finds FUSK trading in frenzied expression once more for these ominous, endlessly intriguing asides.

“Led Right, Gleen Right” follows, and the tune lives up its humorous title, skipping along on a thumping cadence from Lang even as the rest of this quartet works in squiggles of sound that mimic laughter. “Alles klar, Herr Kommandant,” the last Christensen original and Super Kasper’s finale, begins not with a fusillade, but with another open-ended conversation. The horns cackle and chortle, while Christensen and Lang work up a sweat. Eventually, Gropper and Mahall happily join in, moving from loud to very loud over the course of the track’s midpoint. As before, however, FUSK ends things with a moment of crackling interplay – showing once again their willingness to move outside of every convention we have about “outside” playing.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso