Christopher Dell

Dancers on a Plane

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Composer and vibist Christopher Dell is something of an anomaly on the new jazz scene. He is a strict constructionist for one, and his pieces rely on the tension of repetition as well as the seemingly uncontrolled, or less controlled, voices of other instrumentalists. On Dancers on a Plane, bassist Stephan Schmolck provides a certain kind of chromodal grounding with his arco and pizzicato work that is important in that it takes the patterned discourse of Dell to a wider base architecturally and adds actual rhythm and dynamic to his patterned compositions. But it is in the saxophone playing of Heinz Sauer that Dell finds his full articulation. The saxophone here represents the voice outside the matrix of musical structure and harmonic strategy. This is not to say it Sauer completely improvises his parts, far from it. But with every series of themes, phrases or patters, comes an integral separation from them as well. It's not contrapuntal, but transpuntal, it crosses borders and while acknowledging them at the same time. That his solos are on the raw side of the horn (think Gato Barbieri without the high whine) are excellent balances for the vibes which are constant pulsing, playing out one pattern after another in an endless stream, like traffic. The individual compositions here seem not to matter so much to the listener in that there is barely any silence between them on disc and they begin where the last left off, seamlessly entwining in a palette of sonic inquiry which is curious, compelling, academic and mysterious. This is truly something different.

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