Pascal Niggenkemper’s Vision7 – Lucky Prime (CF 283)
Pascal Niggenkemper, a French-German bassist active in both the Cologne and New York scenes, has worked extensively in small improvisatory groups with Thomas Heberer and Joachim Badenhorst, as well as his remarkable piano trio with Simon Nabatov and Gerald Cleaver. Lucky Prime marks a departure for him: an extended suite for a midsize ensemble, emphasizing composition and the particularly complex structures sheer numbers make possible, overlaying composed and improvised elements in ways that are sometimes uncanny.
There’s a particular complexity achieved here that’s unusual, from the initial “Carnet plein d’histoires”, in which the seven musicians appear to be
pursuing different musical paths, sometimes at breakneck speed, but somehow tightly synchronized. It’s a remarkable effect, at once composed and improvised, and with its weird harmonic associations and rhythmic layering can suggest music by Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor and early Jimmy Giuffre (there’s
a structuralist cool at the core) all at once, the effect further multiplied by the text of singer Emilie Lesbros.
There’s a particular complexity of mood, a developed ambivalence, which takes another form in the suite’s concluding “Sortir de la Colère”, with Lesbros (in another language) repeatedly spitting out “That’s my dream…” as the underlying music constantly contrasts new and more lyric textures.
Along the way, there’s the odd rhythmic insistence of “I don’t know why, but this morning”, held together by drummer Christian Lillinger; the abstract duet of pianist Eve Risser and vibraphonist Els Vandeweyer on “En urgence” and numerous moments highlighted by Frantz Loriot’s spiky viola work and Frank
Gratkowski’s coruscating alto saxophone and somber bass clarinet. While the compositions and the group are constructed to explore Niggenkemper’s conception, they also represent forums for strong musical personalities, a key function for dynamic jazz composition as well as an ensemble.