Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm "Böhm-Halle-Sold" on This Group

I've been meaning to post about some more of the cool musicians I've discovered recently (thanks to the likes of eMusic, they just keep coming!), but I've found a band that I think deserves mention all by itself.

For the past few years, I've really gotten into some jazz from European musicians. I've always had a thing for ECM Records releases, and lately, that's grown into a strong affinity for a couple of specific artists. It started two years ago, when I first discovered Tomasz Stanko, the Polish trumpeter (whose backing trio led by pianist Marcin Wasilewski also caught my fancy). Last fall, I was introduced to the music of Nik Bärtsch, a Swiss pianist who refers to his jazz-meets-minimalism as "ritual groove music." Then, at the beginning of this past summer, the artist who caught my ears was Nils Petter Molvaer, a Norwegian trumpeter whose sound could best be described as "what would have happened if Miles Davis had lived long enough to work with modern techno musicians."

One of my good friends--in a constant effort to replace my iPod with his on car trips--often complains that everything I enjoy listening to ends up being "some weird trumpet player from another country" (referring, no doubt, to Stanko and Molvaer). And I won't lie--sometimes, while perusing the new acquisitions at eMusic, I'll stop and listen to something that sounds European, and sometimes, that listening will pay off. And now, well, my friend may have to suffer some more in the future, because, while on just such an eMusic excursion a few weeks ago, I came across another group that has turned my listening upside down: Böhm-Halle-Sell.

The group's members, Rainer Böhm (Germany), Gunnar Halle (Norway) and Rainer Sell (Germany--and how cool is it that both Germans are named Rainer!), play piano, trumpet and laptop respectively (and it wouldn't surprise me if "laptop" became such a common "instrument" in the future that nobody would bat an eye at seeing it listed in a band). The threesome are very active in other bands throughout the year, and they seem to unite as a trio mostly at various summer music festivals in Europe. Their own recorded output consists of two CDs, Try to Org (2003) and OZON (2006), both on the German jazzcuisine label (also available at the iTunes store, and OZON--the album that first caught my eye--can be purchased from eMusic as well).

With the presence of both electronics (via the laptop, of course), and a Norwegian trumpeter, you might think that the group's sound is similar to that of Molvaer. And you would be correct (so much so that B-H-S's releases are noted on, a German fan site for NPM), but there are a few added twists: The presence of acoustic piano adds a more organic feel to the proceedings, and there's more of an emphasis on memorable melodies as well; whereas Molvaer often follows the Miles/Stanko school of sparseness--to great effect, mind you--it's more likely that you'll find something you could whistle while walking down the street on a B-H-S recording (with plenty of the expected skronky electronic sounds to keep fans of such things more than happy).

The band's MySpace page (linked above) offers two full tunes apiece from each of the two CDs for your listening pleasure. Though the group's recorded output is fairly small, I look forward to the next effort, and--assuming that the jazzcuisine site will include a secure page for purchases one of these days--I'll eventually acquire the group's concert DVD, featuring video contributions from virtual fourth bandmember Thomas Fuchs. (Does anyone know if a European DVD will play in American players?)

My friend who lamented the whole "weird trumpet player from another country" thing jokingly asked me why I didn't "listen American"--what was wrong with musicians from over here? But it's always been interesting to me to see what musicians from abroad have done when filtering our unique American art form through their own experiences and cultures, and there's room on my plate for both domestic and foreign "jazz cuisine" (heh). If your tastes run in a similar direction, I heartily encourage you to add Böhm-Halle-Sell to your menu.

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