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Kaufmann, Landfermann, Lillinger (Grünen): Disenjambment

In brief:
"Though I'm not a huge fan of either rock or hiphop, I love much of jazz-rock – and if this album is any guide, the same applies to jazz-hiphop. Disenjambment is at the cerebral end of the genre, and it's a remarkable achievement"

The trio Grünen first performed in 2009, when Robert Landfermann (bass) invited Achim Kaufmann (piano) and Christian Lillinger (drums) to participate in his series at the Loft in Cologne. The freely improvised encounter was released on Clean Feed; a follow-up on the same label featured preconceived material. This latest album was recorded at the Loft in June 2017, and as on their second album there are improvised and notated elements.

I’ve been enormously impressed by the work of Berlin-based percussionist Christian Lillinger, including the recent The Meinl Session on his own PLAIST label, which featured Landfermann as one of two bassists in a “new chamber music” of stuttering intensity, created from elements of jazz, hiphop and musique concrète.

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There are stylistic similarities with the present album, whose asymmetric rhythms again give a sense of effort and strain against powerful forces. ​Lillinger has a deep, condensed musical language, which he describes in an email as “a hiphop up cutting thing, but I played it all live” – a live imitation of hiphop’s rhythmic manipulations.

Lillinger is a strong presence, but the other players on the album match him. All compositions are by Achim Kaufmann, except Nepenthes by the trio. The opening track, Mondegreen, begins with unaccompanied piano – after Lillinger and Landfermann enter, with a fierce but chunky rhythm, the theme is eventually made explicit. Lost Gesture/Green Istria is dark and subdued in comparison – the piano-playing calls to mind Paul Bley’s obliqueness. Fsinah is intense and complex.

Closest to a swing groove is the first part of the final track, Mamonaku, which reminds me a little of a Herbie Nichols composition – its material then seems to undergo a subdued hiphop transformation in the album’s concluding minutes.

I’m wondering if a new jazz hybrid is emerging. Though I’m not a huge fan of either rock or hiphop, I love much of jazz-rock – and if this album is any guide, the same applies to jazz-hiphop. To use a wrongly maligned term, Disenjambment is at the cerebral end of the genre, and it’s a remarkable achievement. There’s a lot more to say about this amazing music, but I need to listen to it more first.

Hear/buy Kaufmann, Landfermann, Lillinger (Grünen): Disenjambment at bandcamp.com

Discography
Mondegreen; Lost Gesture – Green Istria; Fsinah; Heft; Nepenthes; Green Istria Reloaded; Mierenneuker – Quincunx; Kabuki Variations; Mamonaku (62.34)
Achim Kaufmann (p); Robert Landfermann (b); Christian Lillinger (d). Köln, 5-8 June, 2017.
Trokaan Press 005

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