Thursday, January 12, 2012

Get to Know: Minsarah

Minsarah, Jazz Trio from IsraelBlurring the Lines
Blurring The Lines
Enja (2010)

Minsarah is an acoustic trio consisting of pianist Florian Weber from Germany, bassist Jeff Denson from San Diego, and drummer Ziv Ravitz from Israel. They demonstrate a range of stylistic influences -- blending avant garde, free jazz play with more mainstream post-bop trio work, allowing for some mid-eastern influences to come forward in some songs, and rapidly shifting tonalities and rhythms within their pieces. This is jazz at its best, when its practitioners develop a unique style built upon the vast body of work that has come before.

"Blurring the Lines” (Enja 2010)  is the second trio recording from the group, the first being "Minsarah" (Enja 2006).  The nine songs, seven of them originals written by group members, exhibit a great deal of dynamic shifting even within a single song, from loud to soft, frenetic to meditative, legato to staccato.  Weber in particular is like an expressionist painter, with tremendous changes from arco bass to light, smooth pianistic sections followed by raggedy ones, but all eventually feeling integrated into a fully realized composition. There is clearly a group ethos at work here as melody and color work together hand in hand, with subtle accents under melodies, the passing of melodies between bass and piano and between form and abstraction, all adding up to a recording that is abstract and angular at times and  at other times close to chamber jazz with wonderful legato sections played by piano and arco bass.

Highlighting some of the songs on the disc, it begins with " Three Sided Coin", which starts with a  simple melody and group interplay, building as it goes in complexity and speed before returning to the opening melody. Be aware: on this and several other songs there is a distinct amount of singing a la Keith Jarrett behind the music, but certainly not enough to be a distraction. "Alone Together" was written by Schwartz and Dietz, and is one of two songs not written by the group members. Its familiar melody is played in several styles but always recognizable. The first section finds the group strongly attacking the notes, playing in a jarring rhythm before the song settles in to a more conventional speed and sound. The song is a wonderful show of Weber's piano dexterity.  The well-titled "Points of View" begins with a lovely legato melody with the piano playing over an arco bass. It shifts speeds to a rapidly fingered portion which demostrates the delicacy and lyrical play of  the trio; bass and piano then play a slower section  that gradually increases in speed and urgency.  Finally, the piano concludes with a rapid passage of outstanding pianism. All these points of view come in a song that is just under  six minutes long. "Lazy Afternoon" is another nicely named piece that starts out slowly with a minor key bass passage with drum and piano accents, and is a quiet and contemplative song of great beauty. The final song, "1994" finishes with an upbeat, almost anthemic piano driven melody.

This is not music for those seeking "piano trios encounters of the first kind", as described in the post of January 4, 2012, credit to Peter Hum. But at the same time, it is not music that is too far out for those seeking some adventuresome trio music -- the songs never get so far out as to reach total atonality and chaos, and hold together beautifully as they combine expressionism with fine melodic play. I would label this perhaps as "an encounter of the second kind", and hope that people will take some time to listen.

ENDNOTE: Deep LeeThe group has also done two quartets with Lee Konitz. The first "Deep Lee" was recorded in 2007.  The second was Lee Konitz New Quartet, "Live at the Village Vanguard" (Enja 2010). 

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