Philipp Gerschlauer and David Fiuczynski – Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik (2017)

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Micro-tonal guitar king David Fiuczynski has mined a wealth of ideas that come from the notes not commonly used in jazz and for his latest trick, he teams with German alto sax master Philipp Gerschlauer for a — ahem — micro-llaboration. Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik pools the talents of two of biggest proponent of microtonality in jazz, as they share in the composing work, and bring in another proponent, Giorgi Mikadze, to add his microtonal keyboards.

The rhythm section is another cause for excitement, because it’s two-thirds of Jack DeJohnette’s loose-limbed In Movement trio with bassist Matt Garrison.

Mikrojazz, dropping on September 29, 2017 from Rare Noise Records, benefits from twice the microtonal perspective than that from a record led by Fiuczynski alone. Even though the Berliner Gerschlauer is the fresh face in this grouping, the former student of Tony Moreno and Chris Potter is already making innovations on the saxophone, using alternate fingerings and a systematic approach to microtonality.

All of that means that this union can capably cover a pretty wide swath of jazz from mainstream to rock fusion to world fusion, and they are all transformed in some way or another due to not restricting themselves to playing chromatic scales.

Everything about “Micro-Steps” depicts your typical post-bop tune, except that Western-trained ears need to adjust to those quarter-tones. Fiuczynski and Mikadze stand out, since the guitar is fretless and the keyboards are specially tuned. But the adjustment doesn’t take long, in fact, it almost seems they’re having a lot of fun with it: the cleverly-named, Fiuczynski-penned “MiCrOY Tyner” imagines a world where the famed Coltrane sideman took his two-handed modalism into the micro-jazz realm. Mikadze on a micro-toned piano does at first impersonate a tripped out Tyner, but leaves behind swinging, right hand asides near the end of the performance, amply pushed along by Fuze and DeJohnette. “Walking Not Flying” is yet another fanciful blend of swing with microtones, Mikadze’s keyboard resembling a weirdly pitched vibraphone.

It gets even more exotic when they take this approach with music that’s exotic to begin with. Fiuczynski’s inviting Japanese figures greet you at the outset of “LaMonte’s Gamelan Jam” and Gerschlauer’s thoughtful sax lines is there at the end as DeJohnette subtly opens up the spigot. “Lullaby Nightmare” goes pretty much how the title suggests, a toy piano figure full of off-key notes from which Gerschlauer and Fiuczynski ascend from a state of slumber to a creepy wakefulness. And a circus atmosphere pervades “Zirkus Macabre” but it’s much wilder than the mostly congenial “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite,” swirling in a ghoulish march with ever-changing tempo and pitch.

Sooner or later a groove appears when Fuze is involved, and that happens deep into “November,” but not before the song introduces a bright circular figure and given a dark undercurrent simply by making it microtonal.

It would be criminal not to give mention to the contributions of DeJohnette, who late in his career has thrived in experimental settings more than he’s done for decades. He moves to the fore at the drum-only intro of “Umarmung,” which sets up the duel-streamed song with the iconic drummer going at a brisk pace and the other four drifting along transcendentally at half-time. His familiar cymbal and snare appears again on “Last Chance,” which has a serene, ECM quality to it (aside from the short interval notes, that is) and Garrison’s fretless bass feature fits right into this, as well as on “Hangover.”

When it comes to exploiting the infinite possibilities that come from having so many more notes at one’s disposal, two heads can be better than one. Philipp Gerschlauer and David Fiuczynski getting together for Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik took microtonal music to new places, and there’s never a dull moment.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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