On the international jazz front the Swiss are still winning, but the Russians are suddenly catching up with a duo of fascinating releases. I’m referring to the increasingly wonderful fact that I’m getting these magnificent and truly innovative jazz performers from all over the world–but primarily Switzerland. Trombonist and composer Florian Weiss, along with his quartet Woodoism, are Swiss, and their jazz is fairly consistent with what I’ve been hearing from these European tangents, this reverent and subtle tip of the hat to American jazz traditions while sounding distinctive and revisionist.
This new album from Florian Weiss, Alternate Reality, is somewhat disconcerting in the way it takes a pretty straightforward concept like a trombone-led jazz quartet, gives you what you expect in terms of swing and perhaps whimsy, and then suddenly tricks you into having memories of things in your past, places you’ve been but you’d rather not return. We’re not talking about a morose or even sad feeling, but rather surprising remembrances that are more poignant and melancholic that you had planned.
Is jazz supposed to make you feel this way? Shouldn’t it be more invigorating? Of course not, it doesn’t have to be anything which is why it is jazz. Florian Weiss and his partners–Linus Amstad on flute and alto sax, Valentin v. Fischer [sic] on double bass, Philipp Leibundgut on drums and glockenspiel–will supply all the swing and energy you could desire, but they’re also going to tease you a bit with some fine Swiss introspection. So these original compositions are jazz and nothing but jazz, pure and hot and curious in the way it creeps into your brain.
Alternate Reality may sound esoteric, but it’s really not. But it does seem to be jazz plus, a new strain. I think I might have hit the nail on the head when I called this Swiss jazz a look at a familiar view from a completely different perspective. In that way Florian Weiss might have reinvented the jazz trombone, the way it is played, the way it can lead other musicians and provide them with the support and guidance when needed. These global takes on jazz are quite illuminating, with albums such as Alternate Reality re-invigorating my enthusiasm for contemporary jazz.