February 26, 2019
Other Life Forms
Different Track No #
A diversified session which unfortunately has taken four years to reach the public, Other Life Forms slides among inferences from Jazz, notated music and pure improv. Composer Gordon Beeferman performs this feat boldly and stoically in his music, so perhaps the reason for delay between creation and exhibition is that more conservative elements were queasy by this admixture. They shouldn’t be. For Beeferman, who plays piano and organ here has established a niche where his musical proficiency stretches from the creation of operas and compositions for chamber ensembles to improvising with the likes of Jeff Arnal and Dafna Naphtali. His associates are just as versatile. Drummer Andrew Drury works, with among others, Kuumba Frank Lacy and Robert Dick; bassist Pascal Niggenkemper has played with everyone from Frantz Loriot to Joe McPhee; while violist Stephanie Griffin is at home with a Hans Tammen creation as in the Princeton Symphony.
Unique to a session like this, some of the tunes depend on a blend of organ with viola and the rhythm section. Yet freed of its common funky and/or churchy credentials, the dual keyboards’ distinctive output is used more profoundly. On “Hourglass Daydream” for instance, double-timed organ stops upsurge into an undulating melody accompanied by a walking bass line and popping drum beats that cement the rhythm. More Bach than Bop when unpacking a cushioning narrative for “Creep”, it’s up to Griffin to wrench out harsh timbre-stretching from her violin, providing the exposition with angular stops so to not only expand it with unexpected shapes, but also connecting with the rhythm section to construct a satisfying finale.
Akin to this intonation duality, Beeferman’s piano playing follows alternative routes. The violinist’s flying spiccato on “Bad Strategy” for instance, is met by speedy tremolos from the keyboard. These pounding piano chords evolve in counterpoint with Niggenkemper’s rooted pulse giving Griffin space for sul ponticello jumps plus repeated stops and splintering leaps, As dissonant as this appears, repetition by the pianist of a key viola phrase eventually signals the ending. Meanwhile “Puddle Jump” featuring a shuffle beat from Drury and slap bass from Niggenkemper, is almost pure Jazz Swing, with the violist sawing and sizzling like Stéphane Grappelli and Beeferman tinkling keys and rolling phrases in a Ray Bryant-like manner, and with all four players rarely straying from the groove.
While the quartet also hits on other styles from impressionism to drone, the take-away from the disc is how well everyone interprets and improvises on Beeferman’s compositions. Hopefully another half-decade won’t pass before there’s a follow up to hear more of them
Track Listing: 1. Get Got 2. Creep 3. Bad Strategy 4. Path 5. Hourglass Daydream 6. Puddle Jump 7. That's a Wrap
Personnel: Stephanie Griffin (viola); Gordon Beeferman (piano and Hammond organ); Pascal Niggenkemper (bass) and Andrew Drury (drums)