Nik Bartsch’s Ronin – Live (2012) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Nik Bartsch’s Ronin – Live (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:44:55 minutes | 1,01 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM
Recorded live 2009-2011; Mixed at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines

Ronin around the world: a powerful and atmospheric concert recording with music captured in Germany, Austria, Holland, England, and Japan, a double-album which transmits the live impact of Nik Bärtsch’s band and its enveloping modular groove music of interlocking rhythms. It’s also a set that marks the end of an era and the transition into a new one. These are the last recordings of Ronin with Björn Meyer’s elegantly-leaping bass guitar as one of the lead voices, and Bärtsch views the album as partly a tribute to Meyer’s long tenure with the band. New bassist Thomy Jordi, meanwhile, makes an impressive entrance on “Modul 55”, but it’s most often the whole band, as a unified field of force, that commands the listener’s attention.

The quirky, minimalist ritual groove music of Swiss keyboardist Nik Bärtsch is, after three previous recordings, coming into its own with this fourth CD, recorded live in concert in Zurich and Bern. The refinement of Bärtsch’s playing and the coming together of his now-established quintet, Ronin, is obvious to anyone, whether a newcomer or dedicated fan of the band. Supported by the spot-on rhythmic wizardry of drummer Kaspar Rast and percussionist Andi Pupato, Bärtsch, bassist Björn Meyer, and saxophonist/bass clarinetist Sha weave a magical zen-like discourse of funk/not-funk and a bright, clairvoyant sense of wonder and imagination into the fiber of this music. This is not jam band, modal modern jazz, or film noir sounds in the strictest sense, but all three elements play their distinct parts in what is truly a new sonic language. Everything for Bärtsch is a module. “Modul 14” uses 14/8 and 7/4 time signatures wrapped around a sparse light funk accented by spacy electronics, Fender Rhodes electric piano, and heavy bass, more dense and layered as it goes along. “Modul 17” is a 5/4 ostinato with inventively juxtaposed rhythms using snare brushes and bells contrasting the Rhodes, acoustic piano, and organ. It’s a modern-day road song that astoundingly uses no overdubs, as is the case throughout on this purely live set. “Modul 11” is more traditional R&B-flavored straight funk in 3/4, where the elements of contrast and development — a key to their music — are most evident. “Modul 16” suggests the harder-edged European ’70s fusion of pioneers Charlie Mariano, Jan Hammer, Jasper van’t Hof, Volker Kriegel, and Joachim Kühn, along with the British Canterbury scene, using constant variations within a minimal framework. “Modul 8_9” and “Modul 15” are the longest pieces, more simple and basic, and apply a spare subtlety that may not be the best concert vehicles. Most of this music, under the sub-concept Conspiracy of the Rhythm Gardeners, is compelling, commanding, well worth a close listen, and a prelude for things to be heard stateside. This may be a difficult recording to acquire, but worth the search. -AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos

1. Modul 41-17 Lörrach 16:38
2. Modul 35 Leipzig 11:31
3. Modul 42 Wien 08:09
4. Modul 17 Tokyo 08:58
5. Modul 22 Amsterdam 14:45
6. Modul 45 Mannheim 13:11
7. Modul 48 Gateshead 08:37
8. Modul 47 Mannheim 13:11
9. Modul 55 Salzau 10:00

Nik Bärtsch: piano, Fender Rhodes
Sha: bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, alto saxophone
Björn Mayer: bass
Thomy Jordi: bass (Modul 55)
Kaspar Rast: drums
Andi Pupato: percussion