Juan Vinuesa Jazz Quartet

Blue Shots from Chicago
NoBusiness Records CD 122

Marco von Orelli/Tommy Meier/Luca Sisera and Sheldon Suter

Lotus Crash

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Adapting the expected reed, brass, bass and drums combo configuration to their own ends, the quartet of Madrid-based tenor saxophonist Juan Vinuesa and the cooperative Swiss quartet of Marco von Orell, Tommy Meier, Luca Sisera and Sheldon Suter come up with equally valid, but distinctive programs. Among the points of demarcation is that all eight tracks on Blue Shots from Chicago are the saxophonist’s composition and he’s accompanied by three Windy City players: cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mikel Patrick Avery. In contrast among Lotus Crash’s nine tunes are four by trumpeter von Orelli and three by tenor saxophonist/clarinettist Meier. Plus the Jazz Quartet was created after Vinuesa has spent several months in Chicago, while the Lotus Crash members have worked together in many local bands over the past few years.

As well as also playing with Co Streiff and others, von Orell has also worked on theatre and circus {!) programs so that his pieces have touches of theatricality. For instance “Forbidden Fruits” begins with lowing resonating pitches from double bassist Sisera, who has also played with Streiff, and thickened crunches from Suter, who is also in Big Bold Black Bone with wavering horn lines behind them. As the tune accelerates drum cracks preserve the beat as plunger trumpet and slippery sax licks move in-and-out of pitch before concluding in lockstep swing. Meantime the trumpeter’s “Lotus”, the CD’s opening tune, initially sounds like standard hard bop until reed bent notes plus skywards aiming flutters from the trumpeter moderates the initial hairy-chested saxophone line and drum ruffs into a mellow head recap and a conclusion propelled by a woody bass line.

On the other hand Meier, who lead his own Big Band Root Down including von Orell and Sisera has a less drama-oriented and more l effervescent bent to his composing. Even the slyly titled “Wittgenstein” is a festive romp, which lopes along with drums rolls and initially unison horn work. With the melody resting between the two front-line players it’s recast with sore-throat like growls from the composer’s tenor saxophone and clarion high-pitches from von Orell, and climaxes with drum rumbles and swift string plucks. Melding the bass clarinet’s chalumeau register, Suter’s wood block pops and Harmon-muted trumpet tones, the concluding “AKA”, another Meier composition, encompassing a thumping beat, but includes elegance as the tune suggests the horns dancing cheek to cheek.

With only one composer, Blue Shots from Chicago has a completely different feel. Plus some of the needed tension arises between the concepts of the saxophonist, who has worked with Jesús Hernández and Sergio “El Colorao” and the Chicagoans whose usual affiliations are with locals Tim Daisy, Mars Williams and Jason Stein. All however have also collaborated with European contemporaries, so the disc isn’t a soloist-and-pickup-rhythm-section exercise.

The strongest tracks though are those such as “The Alibi” and “La Lola”, where Vinuesa’s biting tenor saxophone strategies meets perceptive contrast from Berman’s cornet. On the latter tune especially the juddering slithering call-and-response, spelled by drum thumps, become more dissonant as it evolves. Following a break involving whiny bugle-like calls and split tone dissonance from the saxophonist, Vinuesa dedicates his solo to multiphonic shakes as Berman romps up the scale, with Avery’s rat tat tats and cymbal color proving the rhythmic antithesis. As woody bass reverb keeps the beat, the horn players make their breaks tougher and briefer. There are more bugle-like calls and triple tongued arabesques from Berman and hardened curses and bites from the saxophonist on “The Alibi”, but the feel is more ebullient climaxing with emphasized high notes.

Completing the session with a cheerful “I Børneteater” , including a walking bass line and rafter high trills, the quartet emphasized color and textures on other pieces referencing ballads and Blues. Less in-sync than the Swiss quartet, the two ensembles still produce gratifying contemporary sounds.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Lotus: 1. Lotus 2. Part of a Light 3. Spin With the EARth 4. Forbidden Fruits 5. Maiduguri 6. Triptychon 7. Wittgenstein 8. Five Dark Days 9. AKA

Personnel: Lotus: Marco von Orelli (trumpet); Tommy Meier (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet); Luca Sisera (bass) and Sheldon Suter (drums)

Track Listing: Blue: 1. Ghost Town Studio 2. Red Line Ballad 3. The Alibi 4. La Lola 5. Afro Asiatic Beat Poem 6. In Paul’s Mirror 7. Luther’s Mood 8. I Børneteater

Personnel: Blue: Josh Berman (cornet); Juan F. G. Vinuesa (tenor saxophone); Jason Roebke (bass) and Mikel Patrick Avery (drums)