The Upshot: Quintet for piano, bass, drums, violin and cello finds a midpoint between collective improvisation and chamber music.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen co-leads the jazztronica duo Food with saxist Iain Bellamy, but his other group Time is a Blind Guide is resolutely acoustic. A quintet consisting of piano, bass, drums, violin and cello, TiaBG delicately finds a midpoint between collective improvisation and chamber music. Lucus, the band’s second recording, bears this out, as the musicians take Strønen’s expansive compositions into realms that aren’t quite jazz or classical, or any easily noted genre.
Pianist Ayumi Tanaka and violinist Håkon Asse essentially serve as soloists, while Strønen, bassist Ole Morten Vågan and cellist Lucy Railton the rhythm section. But the musicians mesh as an ensemble, rather than existing as separate units playing alongside each other. On lush cuts “Friday” and “Fugitive Places,” strings and piano weave an intricate web of sound, letting the nuances of each line beckon for attention, rather than demand it. Busier songs like “Release” and “Truth Grows Gradually” emphasize the melody even more heavily, ensuring that the parts form a tuneful whole. The instruments play more freely on “Islay” and “Wednesday,” finding their own ways around Strønen’s shifting rhythms, while still interlocking like a puzzle.
Throughout Strønen holds back, letting his snare and cymbals prod the songs forward, rather than drive them, though he does take the lead on the rhythmcentric midpoint “Baka.” The point is for his writing and ability to lead a band to take center stage. With the way Time is a Blind Guide brings his compositions to pulsating life, the spotlight is justified.
DOWNLOAD: “Wednesday,” “Release,” “Fugitive Places”