Friday, March 16, 2012

Jurgen Hagenlocher: Leap in the Dark

Intuition Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Leap in the Dark

Need proof that jazz has become an international art? This album should do it for you. It features German-born Jurgen Hagenlocher on tenor sax; trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and bassist Boris Kozlov, both born in Russia; and pianist David Kikoski and drummer Nate Smith, from the States. All entered the world within about a 10-year span covering the mid 1960s to ’70s, with early music experience oriented more toward rock than straight-ahead jazz. But as time passed, each gravitated toward the latter genre, and into more expressionistic styling.

It’s of interest to note that each worked with iconic American units while gaining experience. Sipiagin, Kozlov and Kikoski were members of the Mingus Big Band during the 1990s; Smith played with Betty Carter’s group, and Hagenlocher with Bob Mintzer. Additionally, they frequently worked and recorded with each other; that had much to do with developing the “sound-alike” feel evident in this album’s tracks.

Thus far, this group mostly tours and performs in Europe; March through May of 2012, for example, will cover Germany and Switzerland. That said, Leap in the Dark was recorded, mixed and mastered in New York in 2011. The tracks, composed and arranged by Hagenlocher, are modernist; the melodic lines are relatively complex, the tempos moderate. The solo work is excellent, and each player amply demonstrates his skills. The tunes are relatively lengthy, averaging about 9 minutes; that’s another characteristic of their style.

This isn’t a hard-swinging unit, but there’s no doubt that the result is jazz — as I often describe it — for your “thinking” pleasure.

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