This review of Swiss jazz drummer Clemens Kuratle‘s new album, Lies, marks the first Vinyl Anachronist entry in several weeks because of my recent move from New York back to the Pacific Northwest. Once again I spent a few weeks of my life without a hi-fi, which is strange considering what I do for a living. But the system has been up and running for a few days now, made up mostly of my own “reference” gear since I’ve postponed the delivery of several pieces of review gear until I’m settled in. What’s so special about Clemens Kuratle and Murmullo, his quintet, that makes me want to talk about it more than any of the other recordings that have once again magically piled up while I relocated, once again?
In a nutshell, Lies sounds really good and was memorable enough to use as a test track. Clemens Kuratle is a true drummer-leader in that his personal style–steady with a dash of rock and roll momentum–defines the overall mood, the sum of the parts. These six somewhat epic compositions, jazz to the core, are thankfully short on sprawling and unfocused ideas that you’ll often hear when everyone just wants to jam for a while. Kuratle is responsible for this discipline, I believe. There are times when the two opposing sides, Kuratle against everyone else, seem to diverge to the point where the band skirts that sharp, rusty edge of free jazz and then boom! Clemens Kuratle spins the lens and the image becomes incredibly sharp.
It’s presumptuous, I know, to suggest that Clemens Kuratle is a drumming genius that has somehow strayed into the land of puppetry and hypnosis. Sax player Jonathan Maag, trombone player Florian Weiss, guitarist Franz Hellmueller and bassist Rafael Jerjen are all wildly talented and have the freedom to exert their personalities in any way they choose. (Maag and Weiss work particularly well together, their horns in close proximity throughout the recording.) But there’s something thrilling in the way Kuratle can jump in at any moment and say, “This way guys!” There is no ideological chasm between the leader and his band, in other words, despite that thematic conflict in the middle.
Another reason to tackle Lies first? I used it as a test track to evaluate a new NCF product from Furutech. Play the track with the product in the system, remove said product, listen again. Rinse and repeat. I believe I chose Clemens Kuratle and Murmullo’s new album because, as I mentioned, it sounded great–lots of low bass energy, percussion, the sound of humans interacting with musical instruments, all the things that can really show off the resolution of a system. More importantly, I never grew bored of listening to the same tracks over and over because they were so rich with detail, so full of unexpected moments of sheer originality. Highly recommended.