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Quartet Noir: Lugano

If you’re at all familiar with the past work of the musicians who make up Quartet Noir (Marilyn Crispell, piano; Joelle Leandre, bass; Urs Leimgruber, saxes; Fritz Hauser, drums), you can probably draw a pretty accurate mental picture of how this sounds: lots of “plinks” and “ploinks,” extended techniques, unusual timbres, and a prevailing air of “new music” hoity-toityness that draws more from European-derived art music than it does jazz. Fortunately, I love European-derived, “new music” hoity-toityness–maybe not as much as I love American-derived free-jazz hoity-toityness, but I can dig it when it’s good.

This is better than good, and there’s even a pinch of old-fashioned American free jazz mixed in–thanks, Marilyn C.–making it something like the best of all possible worlds. Crispell is typically brilliant. Hauser’s drumming is so tuneful that it’s nearly pianistic. Leimgruber makes music out of the most pronounced technical extremes, as does Leandre; it’s a characteristic of one who knows his or her ax well enough to forget it’s even there. I could do without Leandre’s glossolalia, but that’s me; I have a general bias against wordless vocals. QN’s burn is slow but intense enough to melt diamonds. Good band, beautiful record.

Originally Published