Dominik Schürmann Trio & Max Ionata: Moons Ago

The Swiss bassist's trio and guest are evidently proficient in hard bop but hide their message under the bushel of understatement


Miles Kington said he travelled from Wales to London for jazz, only to discover that jazz had decamped to Wales. He was referring to the Brecon jazz festival. One might paraphrase him by saying that if a European went to the USA for American jazz it might not be a loss to have stayed at home.

Stateside values and 1950s and 1960s modes are deeply implanted in Swiss bassist Schürmann and others like him. For this album he recruits two Switzerland-based musicians – Italian pianist Yuri Storione and Latvian drummer Jãnis Jaunalksnis – and Storione’s compatriot, saxophonist Max Ionata.

That’s as far as it goes. Sure, the kind of music on this album can be heard in America today, and Schürmann ensures that its continental simulacrum is competently put together and delivered. But for a musician described as being “steeped in the hard-bop era tradition” it never rises to the sound of surprise that Whitney Balliett thought the keynote of jazz, and any “hardness” is reduced by almost insouciant and unnecessarily understated playing. The music simply doesn’t catch fire and sustain any flames. It’s as if pictures in primary colours were being reproduced in monochrome.

Ionata’s composure is Getz-like. He can rattle off double-time lines with the best of them but he’s a slave to Schürmann’s tuneful charts. They don’t take off so neither do the musicians, who are thus shoed into formal structures and licks, fast tempi leaving Storione hanging on in. Jaunalksnis everywhere goes proficiently with the flow.

So, it’s disappointing that the version of Americana on Moons Ago – modernism through and through but toned down – sends one back to Americana itself as an antidote. Kington the ironist would have understood.

Butterflies; The End Of A Bug Affair; Heureka; Autumn Breath; Ramba Samba; Moons Ago; Lonely Owl; Afternoon Song; Rainy Summer; Coffee Cat; Banana Dog; Malia’s Waltz (61.30)
Max Ionata (ts); Yuri Storione (p); Dominik Schürmann (b); Jãnis Jaunalksnis (d). Basel, Switzerland, 13-14 November 2021.