Yoni Kretzmer’s New Dilemma

Month, Weeks and Days
OutNow Recordings ONR 029

Although Israeli-American tenor saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer describes his New Dilemma ensemble as a chamber-improv group, the string-heavy sextet is perceptively as far away from the expected sax’n’strings session as Donald Trump is from presidential norms. Except for the odd interlude, most noticeably in the penultimate section of “Tishma “, the final track, the viola, cello and double bass don’t accompany him, but instead interact to create a harmonious whole.

By the same token the so-called string section isn’t your standard chamber group either. Each – violinist Frantz Loriot, cellist Christopher Hoffman and double bassist Pascal Niggenkemper – have extensive Jazz and notated music experience in North America and Europe. As a further designator, the 11 Kretzmer compositions which made up this two-CD set are stabilized by the unforced drumming of Flin Van Hemmen, with Josh Sinton’s bass clarinet on hand as counterbalance to the saxophonist’s textures.

On occasion extensive unbridled improvisations transcend any expected chamber music-inferences as well. For instance “Dec 3rd/4th” and “June 14th” could be said to have their antecedents in Albert Ayler’s work with strings. On the first, usually moderato strings crackle and crinkle around tenor saxophone glossolalia and bass clarinet bare air expelling until the in-and-out of synch parallel lines unite sympathetically at the end. During “June 14th”,” slick drum paradiddles and staccato viola slides saw menacingly as Kretzmer’s slippery burrs move higher and higher up the scale. Tonal interjections from the other strings and bass clarinet are subsequently shattered by further Aylerian reed rumbles briefly joined by astringent sweeps from the stringed instruments scrolls. As the reed players divide their challenges into tonal and atonal excursions a popping drum solo from Van Hemmen steadies the theme back to ambulatory.

Besides that, as a general rule-of-thumb, shorter and slower tracks suggest more retrained pseudo chamber music narratives from the three string players, who as frequently splinter for either brief solos or intense harmonies times two or three. Tremolo and swelling vibrations may be replaced by strings stops or pinches in duple time. But the nature of the instruments ascribe a certain expected modulation to these forays, especially when measured against dual reed slurs or when Kretzmer limits his solos on a certain track to corkscrew reed ejaculations and Sinton follows suit with flutter tonguing. Throbbing reed narratives express calculated direction with further exploratory asides on most of the tunes. The introductory “Sunday Oct 12th” makes all this clear. A polyphonic Klangfarbenmelodie from the get-go, it showcases hardened, flattened tones from the reeds, clanks and clunks from the percussionist and subtle shifts from the string section that provide connective ostinato as much as harmonies. Midway multiphonics involving thick double-bass buzzing and layered harmonies from the viola and cello, wiggling bass clarinet tongue slaps and whistling tones from the tenor saxophone move the sequence into a more leisurely climax.

Kretzmer may describe this ensemble as personifying a new dilemma. But judging from his compositional skills and the interpretative talents of the other five players, it would appear to be a dilemma that has been neutralized with élan and virtuosity.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD 1: 1. Sunday Oct 12th 2. March 14th 3. Dec 3rd/4th 4. Friday May 13th 5. June 20th. CD 2 1. June 14th 2. November 27th - Dec 1st 3. Jan 19th 2015 4. Tishma

Personnel: Yoni Kretzmer (tenor saxophone); Josh Sinton (bass clarinet); Frantz Loriot (viola); Christopher Hoffman (cello); Pascal Niggenkemper (bass) and Flin Van Hemmen (drums)