John Wolf Brennan

Momentum 3

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Pianist John Wolf Brennan and drummer Christian Wolfarth are on a winning streak. The first two volumes of their Momentum series offered challenging, rewarding, cutting-edge free improvisation. Momentum 3 follows the same lead. What keeps the series interesting is the fact that they modify the lineup for each session. This time around, bass clarinetist Gene Coleman took a leave of absence. Enter Bertrand Denzler on tenor sax and bassist Christian Weber. The sound palette is much different, the approach remains the same. This music is all about listening, losing one's voice into the collective, and knowing when to stop. The letters of the track titles spell the word "syntegration": synthesis and integration, fused like the individualities in this group. Brennan spends more time with his head inside the piano than sitting in front of the keys. His contribution often melds with the ensemble's sound to a point where we forget his presence -- and yet take him out and the whole thing crumbles down like a flawed house of cards. On this album, Denzler reaches a new level of radicalism and abstraction in his playing. Now strongly influenced by the technique and approach of Axel Dörner, Franz Hautzinger, and John Butcher, he breathes in his instrument, making the brass speak more than sing. Paired with Weber's languorous drones on the bass and Brennan's inner-piano soundings, it produces mesmerizing music -- beat poetry for the new millennium. Wolfarth's feather-touch playing and use of small objects placed on the drum skins scramble the cards one more time. Quieter than Momentum 2, this third round has not lost anything in intensity. It may be very demanding free improvisation, but in the end it doesn't deny the listener his or her pleasure. That's why we keep coming back. Recommended.

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