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Jochen Rueckert: We Make the Rules

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Drummer Jochen Rueckert has published three volumes of short stories entitled Read the Rueckert, which chronicle the life of a touring jazz musician, dirty hotel rooms and all. It’s earned at least one comparison to the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Rueckert’s wit transfers over to the titles of his compositions, which include “Manong Twilight at the Whatever Hotel” and “Yellow Bottoms.” Between that artsy side (which also includes excursions into electronic dance music) and the title We Make the Rules, Rueckert’s new album could be a wild ride. But don’t judge him too quickly.

Rueckert, who has supported Kurt Rosenwinkel, Seamus Blake and Marc Copland, among others, takes a subdued approach on his new album. Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Lage Lund (guitar) and Matt Penman (acoustic bass) join him for a set that feels more meditative than rule-breaking. In fact, early tracks start to feel like they’re stuck at a hushed volume. Rueckert comes off as a modest leader, with his drums not so much leading as adding subtle colors while Turner and Lund set the mood. In the middle of “Pretty From Afar,” those two go it alone without the rhythm section, with rich results. Penman’s bass solo on the title track sounds equally understated, but his combination of accents and quick phrases kicks up the energy.

Midway through the album, tempos and volumes rise up and vary a bit more. Rueckert drives the quartet with the languid authority of Paul Motian, to which Turner and Lund respond effectively on “Alloplasty.” His compositions are often inspired by personal experiences, much like his stories, and sometimes it takes a while for the narrative tone to establish itself.

Originally Published