Shake Stew – Rise And Rise Again
(Traumton Records 4663. CD Review by Peter Slavid)
When I reviewed Austrian band Shake Stew‘s first CD (Golden Fang) – here – a year ago, I commented a lot on the unpredictability of the music. I had enjoyed it enormously – it was quirky and wildly variable, but great fun.
This new CD is equally enjoyable, but in a different way. It’s much more coherent and less unpredictable. The sound is consistently funky with strong and often hypnotic Afrobeat rhythms throughout. The key to the sound is a driving rhythm section made up of two drummers and two basses. It’s no surprise that Shabaka Hutchings guests on two tracks – the line-up provides a similar drive to his own band Sons of Kemet.
The double rhythm section is the composer and leader, Lukas Kranzelbinder with Manuel Mayr on basses, and two drummers Niki Dolp and Matthias Koch.
Kranzelbinder has assembled a fine group of soloists alongside that powerful rhythm section. Clemens Salesny on Alto and Tenor, Johannes Schleiermacher on Tenor and Mario Rom on Trumpet.
Where this CD differs from the previous one is in a consistent compositional feel (all the tracks are composed by Kranzelbinder) and this provides more opportunity for soloists to shine, albeit over a fairly short 42 minutes.
The very danceable opener How we see things isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, with intricate and constantly shifting percussion behind the beat. After that is a slower track which starts with all three tenors and leads into a hypnotic trumpet/bass duo. The third, and longest track, Goodbye Johnny Staccato, was apparently written specifically for Schleiermacher and he makes this the stand-out track for me. Schleiermacher isn’t a name I know well, but his soloing here is outstanding. Still only 34 he’s spent a lot of time on study tours and is clearly influenced by the spiritual jazz of people like Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp and apparently by the music of the Gnawa, Isawa and Berber of Morocco.
Tracks four and five are a two-parter – Fall down seven times, get up eight – presumably linked to the CD title. The first part is a ballad feature for Mario Rom, leading in to the powerful rhythms of the second part with a South African and Gospel feel which gradually builds in intensity as Shabaka Hutchings’ sax comes to the fore.
The final track features a hypnotic bass line with Moroccan field recordings and Salesny’s alto taking the lead.
Shake Stew’s first album was raw and exciting, but this second album finds a more mature band that manages to integrate intelligent solos into that excitement.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at http://www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz and thejazz.co.uk
Rise and Rise Again will be released on Traumton Records on 4 May