John Wolf Brennan

Zero Heroes

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In March 2002, the Swiss pianist John Wolf Brennan flew to Vancouver (Canada) for a one-off encounter with the West Coast city's most active free improv couple, cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff. The concert has been captured for posterity. For the past couple of years, Brennan has been stretching his wings even further, simultaneously exploring abstract improv with Momentum and returning to his jazz roots (his solo album, Flügel, and Time Jumps -- Space Cracks with Daniele Patumi). Zero Heroes draws from both sides of his art. It allies free-spirited improv with Brennan's own concept of romanticism. The Lee/van der Schyff duo fits in perfectly, since both musicians are open-minded players too, active in a wide range of styles. The set consists of three trio improvisations, two duets, two solos by the visiting artist, and a handful of his compositions, some previously known ("Anyway -- Was There Ever Nothing?," "Be Flat"), and a couple penned only a few minutes before showtime. The trio connects almost instantly but takes a while to grow. "Eastern Front" begins with long textures, Lee playing arco while Brennan brushes the piano strings from the inside and van der Schyff bows his cymbals. This soft beginning feels a bit tentative, as if the players were measuring each other. "Anyway..." goes beyond the formula of Brennan and backup band, illustrating the Vancouverians' creative approach to the written material. Listeners will have to wait until the last three tracks to hear the group really click as a unit and soar, but the duets and solos are no waste of time. This session was not as spontaneous and risk-taking as it may first seem. On the contrary, it turns out to be carefully paced to give the musicians a chance to get accustomed to one another. But that planning is overtaken by the beauty of the music, a vibrant yet serene take on creative jazz.

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