Intakt CD 268 / 2016

En av de hippeste

Trommeslageren Jim Black har vært der helt siden begynnelsen av 90-tallet. Av en aller annen årsak har han aldri fått det store gjennombruddet og det er merksnodig: Black er nemlig i mine ører en av de aller hippeste trommeslagerne som finnes.

Jim Black (48) har vært en viktig brikke for bandledere som Tim Berne og Dave Douglas - altså sentrale representanter for den innovative, moderne jazzen som kommer ut fra USA. Sjøl har han leda det meget oppegående bandet AlasNoAxis og uansett hvor han har dukka opp, så har Black fortalt oss at han har sin egen, kompromissløse måte å spille trommer og tenke musikk på.
Sommeren 2008 spilte Black i Wien, og forelska seg i et Bösendorfer-piano han oppdaga i garderoben. Seinere på sin turné i Østerrike møtte han tenåringen Elias Stemeseder i Salzburg og innså at han hadde støtt på en pianospilllende ungdom som var så musikalsk at han ikke kunne overse han. Black ga han en bunke med original musikk og han spilte den som om han hadde skrevet den sjøl etter å ha sett på den i ti minutter. Mer eller mindre samtidig hadde Black spilt med bassisten Thomas Morgan i en fri setting og kjemien mellom de to var også av det umiddelbare slaget. Veien fram til en ny trio var med andre ganske kort.
"The Constant" er faktisk trioens tredje utgivelse. Inspirert av Paul Bleys "Footloose" fra 1963 begynte Black å skrive ny musikk og i 2012 kom "Somatic" og to år seinere "Actuality". Dette er imidlertid mitt første møte med de tre.
Black sier han liker sanger og det er lett å høre både i låtene hans og i spillet til både han og trioen. Stemeseder (25) er bortimot en sensasjon med et modent, friskt og personlig uttrykk som passer Morgan, som er en av de mest ettertrakta bassistene over there om dagen, og Black bortimot perfekt. Black har absolutt ikke noe ønske om å dominere lydbildet eller bandet, men inngår som en naturlig del av kollektivet som trives i landskap som både er åpne, frie og svært så melodiske.
Bortsett fra "Bill", skrevet av Jerome Kern i 1927 og som Morgan hadde spilt med Paul Motian, er all musikken skrevet av Black. Det har blitt et overraskende og flott visittkort fra en "ukjent" trio som fortjener mye oppmerksomhet i tida som kommer både for "The Constant" og forhåpentligvis også i levende live.
Tor Hammerø, Tor de Jazz, Oslo, 31.7. 2016



Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy 91, 2016




Manfred Papst, NZZ am Sonntag, 14. August 2016



The Constant (Intakt 268; Switzerland) Featuring Jim Black on drums & compositions,
Elias Stemeseder on piano and Thomas Morgan on contrabass. After a half dozen
discs by his previous band, Alasnoaxis, Jim Black put together a trio with
Austrian pianist Elias Stemeseder and NY bassist Thomas Morgan. This is the
third disc for this trio after a couple of fine CDs on Winter & Winter. Mr.
Stemeseder was also a trio with Devin Gray and Anna Webber, whose disc I
reviewed last year. This past weekend (8/13/16), I caught this trio (with
Chris Tordini on bass) playing a set of John Zorn's Bagatelles at the
Village Vanguard and was most impressed!
This trio has evolved over time with Mr. Black's playing just one part
of their overall sound, each member integral to the triangular force. Jim
Black has often reminded of Paul Motian, in the way he leads a band without
pushing too hard yet knows when to lay back, deal with spaciousness and
suspense carefully, as well as add he own percussive seasoning in odd
places. Black composes songs that rock in their own way and have infectious
melodies. Each song appears to tell a story, create a mood or set a scene
for further study. I had to listen to certain songs several times to hear
what was going on beneath the surface. On "Song O', there a number of
quirky sounds like muting the strings inside the piano or odd bits of
electronic spice added where you least expect them. There is a song called,
"Low", which expands and contracts inlays that are hard to explain, yet
after I heard it a few times, it started to make sense since the fragments
are somehow connected in ways one doesn't expect. This disc ends with
ballad by Jerome Kern called "Bill", which seems normal when it begins yet
seems to change course at times. Hmmm. Time to listen to this again, since
I still have to figure out how it works. I can feel the mystery within but
describing what makes it work is not so easy to explain. With some time,
each piece reveals some quirky magic that Jim Black has left us discover.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG, August 18, 2016

Franck Bergerot, Jazzmagazine, September 2016



Frank von Niederhäusern, Kulturtipp, Zürich, September 2016



Martin Longley, Downbeat, 8/29/2016



Christof Thurnherr, Jazz'n'more, Schweiz, September 2016


Claude Loxhay, jazzhalo, & Jazz!Brugge, September 2016, Benelux


Raul da Gama, Jazzdagama, Sept. 12, 2016


Music Reviews
Jim Black's Trio Comes Into Its Own With A Lovely, 'Constant' Album

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In the 1990s, Jim Black was one of the busiest drummers in New York's downtown jazz scene playing behind saxophonist Tim Byrne and Ellery Eskelin and trumpeter Dave Douglas, among many others, and in the co-operative band Human Feel. Later, he began leading his own groups. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Jim Black's current trio packs a punch.

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: The Jim Black Trio's mix of big beats and accessible melodies owe something to the Bad Plus, one of the most influential jazz bands around who incidentally are still going strong with a new album of their own. But when the guys in that trio were coming up, drummer Jim Black was already slipping rockish beats under the jazz bands he played in. He gave those groups a distinctive jittery energy.

WHITEHEAD: With their third album "The Constant." Jim Black's Trio comes into its own. The sound pops out of the speakers. His younger partners include bass player Thomas Morgan who knows his way around tricky piano trios and who gets a singing tone you can trace back to his early training on cello. Jim Black discovered pianist Elias Stemeseder later as a teenage prodigy in his native Austria, and two years later put him in this trio. Stemeseder may prepare his piano with foreign objects turning it into a percussion orchestra or he'll reach under the hood to mess with the strings by hand with the same sure timing he brings to the keyboard.

WHITEHEAD: The Jim Black's Trio doesn't only function in John Henry hammer-ringing mode. They can simmer down, too. The drummer likes nice tunes and knows to give them room to breathe.

WHITEHEAD: The quieter numbers on "The Constant" include the one tune Jim Black didn't write, Jerome Kern's ballad "Bill" from the musical "Show Boat." It's restrained enough to put you in mind of Bill Evans' subtle piano trio.

WHITEHEAD: That's lovely and confirms these players are more than one-trick ponies. We all value variety after all. Still, Jim Black's Trio really comes alive when they amp up the rhythm. This band was born to groove.
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONEAudio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "The Constant," the new album by the Jim Black Trio.

Kevin Whitehead, Fresh Air, National Public Radio, NPR, USA, September 15, 2016


Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise, London, October 2016




Martin Schuster, Concerto, Österreich, Oktober 2016 (eine lange und vollständige Version des Interview finden sie auf





Drummer Jim Black finds melody in chaos with his piano trio
Drummer Jim Black has one of the most immediately recognizable styles in jazz—his wonderfully unhinged playing bears the mark of the rock backbeat, but he makes it special with a clanking, disruptive quality that forces his collaborators to heighten their reflexes. I first heard him as the infectiously sputtering engine behind Tim Berne's fantastic quartet Bloodcount, but Black's roots reach back to Seattle, where in 1987 he cofounded Human Feel with reedists Chris Speed and Andrew D'Angelo and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Black has maintained an especially fruitful relationship with Speed, not just in the reactivated Human Feel but also in the reedist's old band Yeah No, his more recent Endangered Blood, the Eastern European-influenced collective Pachora, and the drummer's own Alasnoaxis.

In recent years Black has led one of the best bands in his busy career, an unlikely piano trio (with bassist Thomas Morgan and Austrian pianist Elias Stemeseder) that balances his investments in chaos and melody. As he tells writer Hank Shteamer, who wrote the liner-note essay for the trio's excellent new The Constant (Intakt), "I like songs." To most music fans, that probably doesn't seem like something that needs saying, but what Black means is that he's interested in more than improvisational energy and interpretation—he values concision and catchiness in compositions. He wrote all but one of the ten songs on the new album, his third with this lineup, and on a superficial level they remind me of the original tunes the Bad Plus were producing before returning to artful covers on their latest album, as well as early recordings by Norwegian trio In the Country—though Black clearly has his own thing going on. A busy rhythm section pummels and stretches the piano's melodic shapes, which alternate between pretty and tempestuous.

On the opening piece, "High," Morgan plays a melody that serves as a connective thread on the album, resurfacing subtly in later tunes. The ballad "Medium" begins with knotty bass pizzicato, piano-string scrapes and rattles, and dizzying, seemingly random patterns by Black, and that melody emerges unexpectedly from the bedlam like a ray of sun piercing storm clouds. That duality of lyricism and chaos appears over and over, but Black's love of song wins out—once you're aware of the tune, it asserts itself throughout the improvisational disorder and charged soloing.

Black's ballads are the most effective pieces on the record. "Song E," the last of four compositions whose titles spell out "home," is exquisitely tender, underlining the sensitivity and warmth of Morgan and Stemeseder's solos; Black exercises great restraint while still kicking out firm backbeats. The album concludes with a take on the Jerome Kern ballad "Bill," which Shteamer points out that Morgan previously played with drummer Paul Motian—whose singular style, dragging but lyrical, is a clear precursor to Black's approach. This version of the tune is a marvel: its classic form and melodic features shine through, but the trio accent every turn with contemporary flourishes, as if they'd picked up a lovely old vase, admired its symmetry and detailed glaze, and then given it a good thwack to test its strength.

Below you can hear one of the more extroverted pieces, "Song H," where Black's off-kilter funk and love of clank are complemented by Stemeseder's skillful manipulation inside the piano, with a mix of preparations and spontaneous tinkering that produces muted and distorted tones. Eventually the piece settles into a calming midtempo groove, but the drummer's accents and out-of-time feel provide a wonderful tension that never recedes.
Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, October 7, 2016




Jean Buzelin. Disques, livres & Co » Chroniques 2016. 14 Octobre 2016



Auf The Constant ist Schlagzeugkoryphäe Jim Black in einem Piano-Trio-Kontext mit Thomas Morgan am Bass und dem vielversprechenden Elias Stemeseder am Klavier zu hören. Die ersten neun Stücke dieses Opus sind über ein Grundthema miteinander verwoben, man hört sich durch einen quasi Suiten-artigen Liedzyklus (Nr. 10 ist Bill von Jerome Kern). Darin ist vielfältges Material enthalten, charakteristisch sind Tempo- und Rhythmuswechsel, das harmonische und melodische Material ist eher schlicht gehalten. Komponiertes spielt eine wichtige Rolle, Lyrisches ist auch öfter im Vordergrund, aber nicht nur, es kann aber auch heftiger zur Sache gehen. Dieses Trio spielt auf hohem Niveau, interagiert eng. Alles überstrahlt jedoch die Schlagzeugkunst von Mister Black: Er swingt, groovt fett, kreuz und quer (und ganz schön verwinkelt), reitet aus und wieder nach Hause. Das alles geschieht mit einer ungeheuren Farbigkeit und Sensibilität. Wohl einer der Jazzdrummer seiner Generation.
bertl, Freistil 69, 2016



Reiner Kobe, Jazzpodium, November 2016


Ken Vos, Jazzism, The Netherlands, December 2016



Peter De Backer, Jazzmozaiek, 2016/4




Derek Tayler, dustedmagazine, October 14, 2016




Peter Margasak, Chicagoe Reader, USA, December 2016




José Carlos Fernandes, melhores-discos-de-2016, Oservador, Portugal, 25. Dez. 2016




Aldo del Noce, Jazzvonvention, 28. Dec. 2016




Il y a la musique qu'on aime envers et contre tout, la musique qu'on abhorre sans raison, la musique qui intéresse, celle qui énergise, la musique belle, la musique qui intrigue, la musique qui mêle un peu tout, la musique qui spiritualise, celle qui parfaitement exécutée impressionne, la musique qui fait un peu chier, qui énerve, qui transporte, qui geint, qui crisse, qui ouvre, qui se tait... L'infini à la portée des oreilles, et beaucoup trop de ressentis possibles pour ne pas y trouver son compte, ou pour ce qui est du critique ne pas avoir son mot à dire. Le principe même de cette activité étrange de critiquer étant d'ailleurs d'avoir toujours un avis, postulat le moins musical du monde au passage... Au village champignon, il y a un schtroumpf à lunettes et un schtroumpf musicien. Faut pas confondre.
Parfois, il y a aussi les musiques qu'on ne comprend pas. The Constant, du Jim Black Trio rentrerait – très subjectivement – dans cette catégorie. Non pas parce qu'on ne perçoit pas ce qui est en jeu dans ce répertoire, au moins un peu. Non plus pour la raison que ces musiciens déplaisent dans l'exécution de ces dix ''chansons'', toutes sauf une composées par le batteur et leader. Vraiment pas, tant le pianiste Elias Stemeseder impressionne sur tout l'album par un jeu d'une finesse prodigieuse, mise au service de l'attention mélodique de l'album qu'il enrichit constamment par les nombreuses strates de son vocabulaire trouvant un équilibre toujours précaire et beau entre clarté et profusion, chaos et ordre. Et il n'est pas besoin de préciser que Jim Black assure, et Thomas Morgan contrebasse à merveille.
Alors quoi ? Pas de vrai avis tranché, c'est tout. Un ennui récurrent qui le dispute à une forte impression face à l'interprétation et la construction savante de cette musique souvent à la limite de l'évanouissement de la pulsation. Un entrain pour la fausse simplicité des mélodies qui combat l'impression d'avoir déjà entendu un tel propos. Et pour intellectualiser un brin et se forcer à donner son avis, car c'est dans la nature de tous les schtroumpfs à lunettes, ce serait peut-être cela qu'on se permettrait de dire : comme une impression de déjà-vu dans l'idiosyncrasie entre binaire et métrique quasi non-pulsée, entre mélodies pops et musique non-idiomatique, dans la versatilité virtuose d'un trio qui peut se muer en power trio quelques secondes après avoir caressé le fantôme de Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro et Paul Motian, dans les superpositions de couleurs et de langages de trois musiciens à la grande profondeur apportant chacun des univers féconds (et on n'oublie bien sûr pas la grande carrière de Jim Black outre-Atlantique)...
Toujours pas d'avis, en vérité, parce que cette musique est trop évidemment belle pour pouvoir la labelliser d'un quelconque inintérêt ou s'autoriser à la taxer d'échouée. Et sans doute qu'on trouve les limites de tout schtroumpf à lunettes qui se respecte, lorsqu'arrive ce moment où son babil se tarit dans son absurdité pléthorique. Ce schtroumpf-là a bien perçu, en tout cas, le succès critique remporté par The Constant, dans l'Ancien comme dans le Nouveau Monde, et il se demande s'il n'a pas affaire à une musique spécialement faite pour les schtroumpfs à lunettes d'ici ou d'ailleurs ; mais dont les multiples traditions et conceptualisations ne toucheront peut-être pas au-delà du monde des nécessiteux d'ophtalmologie, petits êtres bleus au doigt levé sur toute beauté musicale.
Ah, au fait, le grand schtroumpf a dit que le jazz c'était mieux avant.
Pierre Tenne, Djam, France, 2016




Fred Buchard, New York City Jazz Record, January 2017




Christoph Wagner, Jazzthetik, Januar 2017



Vincenzo Roggero, All About Jazz Italia, January 9, 2017



David Cristol, Jazzmagazine, January 2017



Will Layman, Popmatters, 31 January 2017


Ayumi Kagitani, Way Out West 97, Japan, April 2017

Luc Bouquet, Improjazz Nr. 234, France, 2017



Thomas Conrad, Jazztimes, 16, Nov, 2016




to Intakt home