CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Markus Klossek Elektric Trio – Taken from the Skies

Markus Klossek Elektric Trio – Taken from the Skies
(Unit Records. CD review by Rob Mallows.)

This German group, on first listen, doesn’t seem to fit the standard mould of jazz guitar trio. The tone, deep electric bass, the drum fills, it feels at first like it has a soft rock chassis onto which a jazz body has been fitted. That combination – which can be devastatingly good if done imaginatively, but predictable if approached without care – brings to mind the slightly distorted sounds of Matthew Steven’s album Preverbal from 2017.

Marcus Klossek is, by all accounts, an established member of Berlin’s jazz scene. His album – recorded with Carsten Hein on electric bass (he’s the secret sauce in this album’s sound) and Derek Scherzer on drums, along with guest tenor sax player Finn Wiesner – is, judging by the information on his website, his eighth album. So, this is evidently a composer who knows his ways along the highways and byways of European jazz. And on listening to all eight tracks, I can see that having racked up the jazz miles, there is something sufficiently distinctive in his overall sound to encourage one to listen intently to what he’s trying to say.

It’s jazz guitar, certainly, but I detected different influences running through it like a seam of gold runs through rock. At times I picked up a little rock, country and soul alongside the wholesale jazz chord stylings, which certainly made for a more varied overall hour of listening. What is quite cool is that it is a concept album of sorts – the PR blurb describes it as a “sound-set Heist movie, describing the planning, preparation and performance of the musical coup”. When you have that in your mind as you listen, it adds a creative layer, as your mind imagines a film-noir movie scene in the back streets of Prenzlauerberg as the criminals plot their robbery. It offers some connective tissues between each track that – along with titles like Under Cover and The Gangster – elevate the listening experience beyond just your average guitar album.

Third track The Greed has an angry, prowling feel, with slightly grungy drums from Scherzer; it’s dirty, back-street sort of music that fits with this overall theme. The melody of the fourth track The Night Watchman instantly brings to mind the lazy feel of Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, as used for Barry Norman’s Film programme, suggesting said Watchman is walking slowly round the warehouse, kicking his heels and humming a tune to keep out the cold Berliner Luft.

Sixth track The Accomplice – here led by Wiesner’s sultry, swinging sax – is the most conventionally jazz track on the album, and has a very strong post-bop vibe. Arguments, track seven, suggests something has gone wrong with the heist and the robbers are now arguing with each other what went awry; Klossek’s minor chords imply distress, anxiety – are the police about to catch them? There’s a nice lounge-y feel to Klossek’s tone on this track, it’s very louche, and Wiesner’s sax counterpoint to his guitar suggests different voices talking past each other.

By track eight, Jewels, Klossek’s musical heist has evidently been successful, and this slow ballad brings to mind the gang sitting, looking in wonder at their shiny haul and assuming everything’s going to work out fine. Its almost walking pace tempo and breathy sax brings the album to something of a halt, but it’s an effective caesura in what up to now has been a fairly well-paced album.

There is, understandably, a film score feel to this album that sounds like music that might accompany a reissue of a film from the new-wave of German cinema in the ’60s. There’s enough in here to warrant multiple listens, and one suspects that live, it would be somewhat different from a conventional jazz guitar show.

Musicians who try to do something different with their music, even in very subtle ways, recognise they must continually strive to capture the listener’s attention in a world overflowing with different musical choices. This album, for the most part, does quite well in striking a distinctive, if unspectacular, note of quality.

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