London Jazz Festival Preview (18) Pascal Schumacher Quartet

LJF preview: Pascal Schumacher Quartet
(Pizza Express, Dean Street, Soho – Friday 12 November, 9pm, Preview by Thomas Gray)

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The quartet led by Luxembourg-born vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher may not yet be a household name in European jazz, but judging by the quality of their current release, ‘Here We Gong’ (ENJA), their appearance at the Dean Street Pizza Express on the opening night of the London Jazz Festival could help win them a new fan base in the UK.

Following a few opening minutes of patient build-up, three huge chords blow away any associations between vibes/piano quartets and polite, retiring dinner jazz. This ushers in a meandering prog rock-like epic, ‘…glace, casse’. The rest of the album continues to command the listener’s attention with some intricately woven yet catchy compositions, which draw heavily on classical influences (Beethoven, Satie and Reich come to mind at various points), rock, and world music grooves. The only non-original on the set is an inspired 7/4 reworking of indie group Travis’s ‘Sing’, which coaxes a plaintive call-and-response feel out of the verse before building to a euphoric finale.

Schumacher and pianist Frank von Chossy show themselves to be resourceful improvisers, with an abundance of lucid ideas effortlessly articulated over the many shifts of metre. Meanwhile, Christophe Devisscher (on bass) and Jens Düppe (on drums) play with a mix of muscle, precision and exquisite dynamic sensitivity.

With their potent, hook-laden music, this group has an Esbjörn Svensson Trio-like buzz about it. As with EST, it may be worth catching them in the intimate surroundings of the Pizza Express before they graduate to playing much larger venues.

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