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Dahlgren, Chris: Mystic Maze

Chris Dahlgren is a Berlin-based bassist and composer who happens to love the work of 20th century composer Béla Bartók so much he decided to compose an album solely based on the critiques of Bartók's music Dahlgren found in a book by Nicolas Slonimsky entitled Lexicon of Musical Invective released in 1947.

Mystic Maze is one of the more unusual and adventurous avant-jazz releases I have heard in quite some time. Dahlgren provides double bass as well as voice narration and is joined by Antonis Anissegos (piano, Wurlitzer, sampler, voice), Eric Schaefer (drums, percussion, voice, glockenspiel, sampler), Gebhard Ullmann (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet) and Christian Weidner (alto saxophone).

The concept is as adventurous and unusual as is the music. States Dahlgren, "I wanted, in my own way, to vilify some of the very critics who judged Bartók's incredible music so harshly by turning their own words against them, in other words, to turn their words into music." It is a great idea and as a music critic maybe even a bit unnerving. Dahlgren's spoken narrative is used on six of the album's twelve tracks and his tongue and cheek humour is well evident as he describes Bartók's music through the words of various critics all those years ago.

Now that we know a little about the concept, what about the music? This is the type of album that really takes some time to settle as the melodies are not readily apparent and the band's blending of composition with improvisation is well apparent. The line between the two forms is anything but distinct and is often difficult to distinguish, making this music highly adventurous but not for the casual listener. The musicianship is very good, especially evident in the 10 minute "Painless Dentistry No. 1" where a sprinkling of piano and frantic drums is intersected by tangential sax lines and sporadic blasts of bass clarinet. Dahlgren's steady bass line may be the only hint of normalcy to be found. The jazzy ambience of "Reminiscences On The Fourth Quartet Of Béla Bartók" features wistful keys and sparse instrumentation propelled by Dahlgren's spoken narration. Track 6 exhibits more mellow soundscapes and is quite soothing for a song that is so experimental. Subtle cymbal work and gentle keystrokes makes for a softer palette upon which a meandering sax line slides along Dahlgren's steady bass groove. The only Bartók composition is the short "Mesto" with plucked bass and a gently flowing sax line. It is not a jarring sound but carries an aura of dissonance that is common throughout the CD.

Dahlgren's angular approach to composition and improvisation will satisfy many fans of experimental jazz and avant-garde music in general. For those who want to expand their musical boundary, by all means give this one a listen.

Track Listing:
1. A Mystic Maze (4:45)
2. Repetition Unit 1 (2:46)
3. 'Painless Dentistry' No. 1 (10:25)
4. Great Desires Of The Modernists (1:33)
5. Reminiscences On The Fourth Quartet Of Béla Bartók (6:44)
6. It Was As If Two People Were Improvising Against Each Other (3:39)
7. Mesto (1:55)
8. 'Painless Dentistry' No. 2 (7:15)
9. The Composer Promenading The Keyboards In His Boots (4:40)
10. Bitter Champagne (2:57)
11. Repetition Unit 2 (2:19)
12. 'Painless Dentistry' No. 3 (5:48)

Added: January 2nd 2011
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Artists's Official Site
Hits: 2011
Language: english

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