Christof Knoche: Line Zero

Here’s a little inside dope on interpreting interviews with jazz musicians-especially jazz musicians of a progressive bent. They hardly ever name-check the musician who most directly influenced them. It’s the avant-gardist’s preoccupation with originality. They probably feel that if they don’t cite the obvious, you won’t notice that they didn’t spring full-blown from the head of Zeus.

In the notes to Line Zero, the young German-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Christof Knoche cites as influences everyone from Tuvan throat singers to John Coltrane but omits more contemporary jazz figures that almost certainly must have had an impact on his work-musicians like Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and perhaps Tim Berne, to say nothing of the many fine European players with whom he must be familiar. Oh, well. At least he doesn’t cop his sources literally, although the odd-time ostinati and nontonal heads on such tunes as “Perzina” and the title track sound an awful lot like they could have been written by Holland, Coleman, or perhaps Dave Douglas. Coleman in particular seems to have affected Knoche’s concept; they share a similar dry, angular, freeboppish approach on alto.

Lest I make too much of the influence thing, I should emphasize that Knoche is no plagiarist; he’s certainly a creative enough musician in his own right. The band’s as tight as this intricately constructed music requires. Bassist Bob Bowen III and drummer Dan Weiss run down the tunes with start-and-stop-on-a-dime precision. Trumpeter Russ Johnson is an impressive player, although his quote of Dizzy Gillepsie quoting Carmen on “The Orange Stream” was a callow choice.

Overall this music might strike some as a bit dry. It is, however, intelligent and involving stuff.