Have I mentioned my drummer friend Florian Arbenz? As I matter of fact I have, when I reviewed his album Reflections with sax player Greg Osby last fall. I call him my “friend” because he’s one of those artists who just contacted me out of the blue, hey I just read your article about my friend so-and-so’s new album and I thought you’d like to take a listen to what I’m working on. I usually say yes because that means they’re passionate and working hard to get their music heard. Florian, if I remember correctly, was low-key in his approach. Hey, I’m just a drummer but I’m excited about my new album. He includes postcards and writes me personal notes on them.
There’s just one thing about Florian Arbenz and his jazz drumming–he’s magnificent. I’m not saying this because I feel like I know him, I’m saying that occasionally you do run into people in the real world and you talk to them and down the road you realize just how talented and unique they are. Florian’s new album, Conversation #1, is yet another collaboration–this time with Hermon Mehari on trumpet and Nelson Veras on guitar. Yes, that is a strange jazz trio. No bassist?
Conversation #1 is subtitled as Condensed, which clarifies some of the mystique here. Arbenz explains that “enjoying condensed musical thoughts and exchanges only makes sense if the original thoughts are exciting and interesting enough to be condensed.” That’s the essence of these mostly original compositions, the focusing and refocusing on the threads of these three stunning musicians as they stretch out beyond their instruments without going down the free jazz road. This is pure jazz, existing in the moment, creating that excitement.
As with Reflections, this album is short on liner notes and Florian Arbenz isn’t sending me his CDs with detailed press materials. Hey, if we’re such good friends, maybe I should be asking him some questions, amirite? I do know he’s Swiss, and I also know that so much great jazz is coming out of Western Europe right now. Conversation #1, however, explains the reason for that mystique. These three talented musicians take the basic concept of virtuosity and show how it can be used to create unity between each man’s ideas, and there’s just nothing more that needs to be said. Highly recommended.