Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Traeben Push Jaar Records 2012

I am drawn to jazz coming out of the European scene and why that is continues to remain a mystery to me that borders on the annoying. Traeben has recently dropped their new release Push which graduates the group into a more serious vein where the dynamic shifts to original material brimming with a new vitality and energy to burn.

So what is the difference? With the addition of Dutch drummer Haye Jellema, Traeben begins to get a little rough around the edges and this is a beautiful thing. From the subtle finesse of a softer more lyrical swing to high octane foot to the floor fury reminiscent of the great American drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, Jellema swings hard and this lyrical intensity is immediately transferred to the band. Traeben takes the stereotypical quartet to the next level with odd meter, elegant harmonic movement, and flowing melodic lines that are the result of a myriad of global influences while never losing the more traditional European sound so many would naturally associate with a jazz collective such as this. With Traeben we have four independent voices that all hit a certain level of virtuosity in their playing except this formidable 4tet channels their influence into one cohesive train of musical thought. Push works incredibly well due largely in part to the new material from tenor saxophonist Soren Ballegaard and guitarist Jens Larsen. Both Ballegaard and Larsen play and compose with an apparent lyrical sense of urgency but not desperation which allows for an ebb and flow rarely found. The members of Traeben appear and perform more closely as a jazz collective that while on equal footing in terms of creativity, walk a fine line of harmonic adventure in combining some of the more cultural aspects of European jazz with the form and function of the improvised music here in the United  State we refer to as jazz. Bassist Olaf Miller functions as the sonic glue but shines as an incredibly gifted lyrical bassist with a jaw dropping solo on "Can You?"

Opening with "Top Dog" the conceptual idea of the chain being s strong as the weakest link is readily apparent as there are no weak links here. A concentrated effort to convey a melodic story with a forward sense of motion while shifting both dynamics and meter on the fly. Guitarist Larsen is a most unique and fluid voice on the guitar with clean single note runs that turn into a deceptively subtle sonic exploratory. The ballad "Can You?" is a gorgeous tune that could have been lifted from such western discographies as Stan Getz or Ben Webster. Even with a ballad that is dialed back for obvious effect there is an interplay of chemistry within the band that is almost impossible to ignore. There is a zen like approach, no notes wasted and less is more. This approach allows for the energy and individual freedom that is the true essence of jazz. I went back and checked out the tune "God Makes Backups" simply because of the title. An unobtrusive tune full of nuances from drummer Jellema and an interesting counterpoint from saxophonist Ballegaard that weaves its way throughout the tune much like the golden thread of a beautiful sonic tapestry. Most ensembles would have found numerous sonic trip wires or better still have banged out a performance bordering on the self indulgent but there is not a pretentious note to be found. There is a refreshing almost organic sense of musical honesty that seems to have been hiding out in the jazz witness program for far to long.

This Dutch collective is a odd version of musical detente where east meets west and the results are staggering. A more polished and sophisticated set is occasionally broken up with the edgy performance of drummer Jellema bringing a more rock sensibility or what I like to call a controlled sense of sonic fury to the party. Traeben takes one giant step forward with Push and this leap of faith not only in themselves but their music has resulted in a near perfect release for 2012.

Tracks: Top Dog; Try To Remember; God Makes Backups; Can You?; Catatraffic; All It Needs; We'll Let You Know; Simple Things; Nothing Or Nothing At All (adopted by Loes Van Den Akker); Mi Hiljo (title owned by Jan Willem Gemit).

Personnel: Haye Jellema: drums; Soren Ballegaard: tenor saxophone; Olaf Miller: bass; Jens Larsen: guitar.