Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Swiss Jazz Minimalism: First There Was Nik, Now There's Mik

A few years back, I posted about a wonderful band I'd come across called Nik Bärtsch's Ronin. Bärtsch is a Swiss pianist and composer who refers to his creations as "ritual groove music"--a type of modern jazz that's heavily infused with minimalism. His past three releases have been on ECM Records, and anyone familiar with that label's output would likely agree that Bärtsch has found a good home there.

While looking through the new releases on eMusic the other night, I ran across something interesting: a group called Mik Keusen's Blau. The name was certainly similar to Bärtsch's group; the artists' first names differ by a single letter, one off in the alphabet; and while the album was released on an indie label, the cover looked very ECM-ish.

A little exploring revealed that the two groups have even more in common than was originally evident: Both Nik and Mik are Swiss pianists and composers; Keusen's music is also best described as minimalist jazz; both composers name their pieces with numbers (though Keusen doesn't call them "moduls" like Bärtsch does); the two groups share a member in the reedman who goes by the, well, minimalist name of Sha; and Ronin's percussionist Andi Pupato collaborated on the mixing and mastering of Blau's first album.

Here's a tune from Blau's second recording, Nalu, released earlier this year:

And here's something from Ronin's newest recording, Llyria:

I've also listened to clips from Sha's first recording as a leader (which includes Keusen on piano and keyboards), and, while there are certainly some similarities there as well, each of the three bands is slightly different. But all three are really good in my book, so it was nice to discover that there was a third member of this loosely-knit "society" who was unfamiliar to me until now.

IN THE COMMENTS: A reader points out that both Nik and Mik have been influenced by another Swiss jazz minimalist, Don Li, whose music is also quite enjoyable (and guess what--he names his tunes with numbers as well!).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mik linked to this post on his Facebook page. Welcome to any and all who might be visiting from there!


Anonymous said...

Hey Kev, this "loose" society in Switzerland is a "collective" of musicians, which share a common idea. In the 90s, a Sax-Player by the name of Don Li, developed a musical idea he called "Tonus-Music". Nik Bärtsch as well as Mik Keusen are his apprentices in a way, although they all have their individual idea of music. If you like Nik and Mik, check out Don Li's recordings, he is truly amazing, and in my opinion, one of the most progressive artists in modern jazz music (although i dont like either the therm "modern" or "jazz" ;-))

Kev said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Anon; I've checked out Don's music as well and have it in my "save for later" file on eMusic. I've updated the main post to link to Don as well.

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