Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Aaron Novik: Rotterdam/Berlin (Avant LaGuardia)

A review of the second and third of five suites from the clarinetist

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Aaron Novik, Rotterdam
The cover of Rotterdam by Aaron Novik

Rotterdam and Berlin are the second and third of five suites clarinetist Aaron Novik has released in 2019, comprising music he’s developed over the past few years and umpteen projects. These installments—both specifically inspired by Novik’s European adventures in summer 2014—come in at 17 and 28 minutes, respectively. To say they’re worth your time is not to say much. As it happens, though, that can’t be said: One is too short, and the other too long.

Rotterdam is the too-short one, and it’s maddening. There is no improvisation on its six tracks; that fact, along with its instrumentation (Novik’s clarinet, Kasey Knudsen’s sax, Marie Abe’s accordion, Dina Maccabee’s violin, Lisa Mezzacappa’s bass, and Jamie Moore’s drums), makes it closer to contemporary chamber music than jazz. But it doesn’t work as chamber music either. There are themes but no development, and precious little variation; just short melodic statements and frankly bland passagework to pad them out. (The closing “Piano” is barely even a statement, just some long, tenuously connected notes over a drone.)

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.