4+1 is a live direct-to-DAT recording of the second show from Harry Nitz's string quartet project. A free jazz drummer in the '60s and '70s, Nitz turned to composition for improvisers in the '90s. In 1997 he put together the TonArt String Quartet (Nicola Kruse on violin, Mike Rutledge on viola, Krischa Weber on cello, and Peter Niklas Wilson on double bass) and over the course of a few years made it the basis of a series of concerts involving various guests. 4+1 has Ole Hoffmann on baritone saxophone. The album is comprised of three pieces in the 15- to 20-minute range and two shorter pieces, all interpreted from graphic scores setting time frames, sequences of play, techniques used, and moods to follow. As it is often the case with this kind of music, it is difficult for the listener to differentiate between the musicians' and the composer's contribution -- a compliment, since it means the synergy between them was strong enough. Nitz's music is mostly cerebral and demands a high level of concentration to be truly appreciated. The focus is not on technical prowess or soloing, but on group construction. Due to the use of a string quartet, the language is much closer to contemporary chamber music than avant-garde jazz. Emotional outbursts are few and the music remains controlled, minimal at times without getting claustrophobic. The listener comes out of 4+1 puzzled but pleasantly surprised because, as difficult as this music can be, it has a refreshing feel (exemplified by "Polygon II" and, to a lesser extent, "21-3-XXV").
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AllMusic Review by François Couture