UNLAYERED / HANEINE: Behind the Missing Whisper. Luculent Jiggle. Thriving Ring. Queen of the Underground. Dance of Endless Encounter. Seldom Disguise. The Sweetest Finding. Illustrious Bickering. Oust No More. What of What We Are. Once / Thomas Heberer, tpt; Catherine Sikora, t-sax/sop-sax; Christof Knoche, bs-cl; Jay Anderson, bs; Enrique Haneine, dm/cymb/Udu dm/tamb / Elegant Walk Records 003
Jazz drummer-composer Enrique Haneine, whose first two releases I have praised on this blog, returns here with a new one, Unlayered. Although I am very much in awe of his musical talents, I hope he will forgive me for saying that I didn’t understand much of what he wrote in the publicity sheet for this release. The only part that registered with me was his description of “The jazz, Latin and Middle Eastern influence persists in the compositions, immersing into innovative complex rhythms and harmonies in a lyrical context.” After that, he lost me:
Dismantle to achieve a state of clear harmony. What of what we are, feel, do, say, want, does really belong to us, defines and captures who we are, contributes to our well being and direction of our evolution…Unlayered is about unveiling the manufactured essence of the sympathetic existence. Cutting through the shadows of the dusty transparent illusion. Grounding deeper, flying higher, dancing to the raw laughs around the source, drawn into the possibility of the possibility.
My apologies, but I just don’t get that.
Fortunately, I do get the music, and as in his prior releases it is wonderful. Haneine is a genuine composer who happens to work in the jazz idiom, as was Charles Mingus, not a “jazz composer” in the traditional sense of the term. His music is layered, structured and extremely well-balanced between the written and improvised passages; indeed, most of the opening track, Behind the Missing Whisper, is written out, a slow, repeated dirge in which Catherine Sikora’s sensual tenor sax appears to be the lone improvised voice. She begins as part of the ensemble, playing minimally along with the drones of the trumpet and bass clarinet, but as the piece evolves she becomes more creative little by little. In true Mingus style, the rest of the band suddenly melts away at the midpoint, leaving only trumpeter Thomas Heberer playing a solo in the middle range of his instrument against a sparse background of bass with occasional drum and cymbal accents by Haneine. A bit later, Sikora joins him to add her own comments, then Christof Knoche on bass clarinet; what started out as a sort of repeated canon now becomes a three-voiced jazz conversation, with each instrumentalist listening carefully to what the other is playing to create a unified whole. After a pause, we return to the opening phrases as a closing.
Luculent Jiggle is an uptempo Latin-based piece using a repeated four note, upwards-moving and repeated motif that sounds a little like Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. This, however, turns out to be just that, a rhythmic lick and not the theme; that is played by Heberer before the four-note licks return. Despite the strong accents on each of the four notes in the recurring lick, we can only grasp the beat a bit; there seems to always be an extra beat or two per measure to throw the listener off. Keeping the harmony in but one place, our intrepid soloists then improvise over the churning rhythm, and it is in their solos that a bit of harmonic variance is heard. Jay Anderson also gets a nice bass solo in this one, surprisingly melodic in structure rather than strongly rhythmic like everyone else’s, though it does become much busier in his last chorus—which again leads back to the four-note motif, which then just suddenly ends.
Thriving Ring is a slowish piece that moves forward in stutter-steps, even more asymmetric in rhythm than the previous pieces. Bass clarinetist Knoche channels his inner Eric Dolphy in this one, and trumpeter Heberer does a pretty good Ted Curson in the first half of his first chorus. After Hebeber slows down, however, Sikora enters and picks up where he left off; the bass and drums suddenly shift to a stomp beat behind her, pausing between their rhythmic accents to create a somewhat lurching effect. Haneine the takes a drum solo, proving that he even thinks like a composer when he is playing his instrument. There is nothing flashy here, but the layered rhythms he produces add to the quality of the music.
Queen of the Underground opens with a neat, uptempo series of beats played on the rim of the snare drum, then cymbals, before the bass and bass clarinet enter. The latter certainly does seem to be playing the tune’s melody, a curious, twisting sort of three-bar phrase repeated sometimes verbatim and sometimes with variants. Muted trumpet and tenor sax play soft held chords behind him as he progresses, improvising ever-so-slightly. Unlike Haneine’s previous two releases, in which the music was exceptionally complex, this one seems to stress simple musical gestures and motifs which somehow fit together to produce a complex piece of musical art. Knoche’s solo on this one is a gem. Haneine’s solo is a bit strange; he almost sounds as if he’s playing spoons (probably the Ubu drum).
Dance of Endless Encounter switches to a Middle Eastern rhythm. Once again, the building blocks of this piece, the small musical cells that Haneine uses, somehow coalesce to produce a unified piece…or, at least, a piece in which the various pieces overlap to create continuity. Heberer’s solo on this one is especially interesting and well constructed.
The remaining pieces on this album follow a similar pattern; perhaps describing each in detail would be a bit of overkill. Each follows a similar pattern, yet each is different. Haneine has a lot of ideas up his sleeve, and on this album he lets them drop one at a time; I was particularly struck by the form and shape of Illustrious Bickering with its twisting, turning melodic line set over a sort of Middle Eastern rhythm.. Overall, the album creates a hypnotic effect on the listener; once drawn into his simple-yet-complex webs of sound, the listener is able to follow every strand because nothing stands in the way of their essential clarity, though the rhythm remains complex throughout.
This disc is a worthy successor to Instants of Time and The Mind’s Mural, both of which I reviewed last September. Enrique Haneine is clearly a talent worth watching, and listening to.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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