David Helbock: Austrian Syndicate

Synthesist honours Zawinul with a mix of jazz and world-flavoured fusion, throwing in some Mozart recast as Cuban party music

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The title of this album sounds like it could be a spy movie. That is not entirely inappropriate given that the listener is parachuted straight into a fast-paced, choppy opening track that combines chase-sequence pace with some lovely blues interludes.

Austrian Syndicate is a dizzy, hugely enjoyable mix of fusion, electronics, ambient, classical, Latin and Afro-Caribbean all rolled into one. Helbock conjures some weird and wonderful sounds from his bag of electronics, and although the album is partly a homage to Joe Zawinul, it is a lot more than that. Exploring jazz fusion with new twists and a sense of experimentation, the record is an engaging and enjoyable listen throughout.

Helbock limits himself to keyboards, leaving Peter Madsen to provide fine accompaniment on piano. Nestled amongst some prog-rock solos that twist and turn dramatically there are some beautiful ballads, notably Ballad For Schonenbach and We Need Some Help Down Here. The latter – a Peter Madsen composition – has a particularly haunting, dreamlike, feel to it that sticks in the mind.

The global feel of the music is matched with the international line-up of guests that feature on the album, including Portugal’s Maria Joao, Peruvian percussionist Alex Acuña and Tunisian singer and oud virtuoso Dhafer Youssef. Indeed, it is Joao who pretty much steals the show with a spirited performance on the final track. If you have never experienced Mozart meets Cuban party rhythm, then you are in for a treat with a unique treatment of Komm, Lieber Mai Und Mache.

It’s impossible not to be swept along by the verve, humour and sheer inventiveness of the music that brings this high energy album to a perfect conclusion.

Discography
Money In The Pocket; Hymn To Vienna; The Third Man; Dinde Et Dindon; Ballad For Schonenbach; The Ups And Downs; Adventure; Grundbira Dance; Crimson Woman; We Need Some Help Down Here; Nuyorican; Komm, Lieber Mai Und Mache (51.35)
Helbock (kyb, syn, effects); Peter Madsen (p); Raphael Preuschl (b, bass ukulele); Herbert Pirker (d); Claudio Spieler, Alex Acuna (pc); Lakecia Benjamin (ts); Fred Wesley (tb); Maria Joao, Dhafer Youssef (v). Mitterretzbach, Austria 26-27 February 2023.
ACT 9974-2