Eva Klesse Quartet – Xenon
(Enja Records ENJ-9614 2, CD review by Mike Collins)
Young German drummer Eva Klesse leads her quartet through eight quietly compelling originals with subtlety and confidence on this her debut album, released on the Munich based Enja Label.
Klesse’s Cowboy (für Luc), opening the album, starts with a single repeating note from Philip Frischkorn’s piano, soon joined by a singing melody on bass and the merest sizzle of a cymbal and shuffle of brushes from the leader drummer. Intensity and energy build as first piano and then Evgeny Ring on alto elaborate the melody before fluent solos leads us back to the minimal start, an arc that becomes familiar as pieces develop with distinct episodes and contrasts, building and diffusing tension. Its not until towards the end of the breezier Frischkorn composition, Orphelia, third tune in, that Klesse switches to sticks, building an urgent flurry of rythmn to urge on Ring’s squalling alto over a mazy riff, doubled with the pianist’s left hand and bass player Robert Lucaciu.
There are plenty of elegant melodic themes, often sounding like a fragment from a romantic classical piece. The ballad Leise Wie Er is gorgeous and Frishchkorn wears his heart on his sleeve with Ein velorener Romantiker (rough translation – ‘A Lost Romantic’) which also features a solo bass section. Some pieces have more open looser shapes, many feature dialogue like episodes between two or more instruments but the thoughtful, focussed atmosphere pervades the album. Same Old Story finishes the set with another lilting melody giving way to first an atmospheric piano solo and then a fierce exchange between alto and drums and an energetic climax.
Most of the five of the eight compositions are Klesse’s and her drums colour, nudge and glue the music together rather than dominate it. The band has no fear of letting notes and chords hang and space in the music work its magic drawing the listener in. This an assured and enjoyable debut.