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"Time Labyrinth" Leo Records 2020


 March 2020

The last of this four is "Time Labyrinth“, an ambitious electro-acoustic septet project with Frank Gratkowski and constellation of younger and more senior musicians, including Melvyn Poore, notable member of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, with wich he recorded "That Time" (just published in 2020 by Not Two) and "Study II, Stringer" for Intakt. The music here is in a sense similar to LJCO or better to say to Barry Guy New Orchestra. It combines highly complex composed parts, conducted improvised parts, free improvised parts and free jazz and even jazz parts. Many moments remind contemporary classical music: Luciano Berio's or Alfred Schnittke's music in particular.  The opening "Waves" provides a perfect example. "Metamorph", as Simon explains, deals with a flow continuum, devised in a dialectic manner. The chaotic fragments (thesis) are followed by the "freeze" fragments (antithesis). Later on a chord sentence dominates the "freeze" fragments, providing the support for the tenor solo of Matthias Schubert. "Reader" is "a philosophical soliloquy by Frank Gratkowski on flute". Frank is joined in the middle by Hans W. Koch on synthesizer, and the track ends with the double bass solo of Dieter Manderscheid. "Right Off" is a vehicle for the trombone solo of Shannon Barnett, while my favorite "Repeated", with a wonderful explorations of varying tempo and chronometry, includes a tuba solo of Melvyn Poore that takes the listeners on to the upper regions of stratosphere! The final "Choral", with clear accents of ancient music, wonderful piano lines, and the  impressive collective improvisations. "Time Labyrinth" is a masterpiece!!!

Maciej Lewenstein

 The New York City Jazz Records May 2020

Nabatov turns to a compositional emphasis on Time Labyrinth, though there’s still a crucial improvisatory element in featured solos. The “Time” of the title is as much conceptual as rhythmic. Nabatov’s fascination with time has previously led to “Sunset Redux” (on Round-Up), a piece inspired by the idea that pilots can experience a double sunset. Here the concept of time is sufficiently elastic and mysterious not to require a percussionist. Rather a “digital conductor” on a monitor conducts a densely- voiced septet with Gratkowski on his multiple woodwinds, tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, trombonist Shannon Barnett, tuba player Melvyn Poore, bassist Dieter Manderscheid and Hans W. Koch playing synthesizer. The opening “Waves” builds from isolated incidents to a fluid, literally wave-like, movement. Part of its fascination lies in the wavering glissandi of tuba and trombone, the low brass suggesting pitch itself as an unstable temporal element, literally measured in cycles per second. “Metamorph” creates a thick weave in which voices move in contrary directions, highlighted by a Schubert solo with his pitch quavering with Albert Ayler-like intensity. Those moments are balanced by pieces of great subtlety: “Reader” wafts on Gratkowski’s serene flute while the concluding “Choral” suggests an ancient dance orchestra appearing in isolated fragments amid barely enhanced silence and airy piano figures.

Stuart Broomer

 All About Jazz May 2020

Jumping ahead two years, to April 2019 when Time Labyrinth was recorded, we encounter a totally different grouping, producing a soundscape which bears little resemblance to that above. Tellingly, the album is credited to Simon Nabatov alone. However, in a drummerless septet, Nabatov is the pianist, with composer & sound artist Hans W. Koch on synthesiser and Dieter Manderscheid on double bass, behind a front line of four horns—Gratkowski on reeds, Matthias Schubert on tenor sax, Shannon Barnett on trombone and Melvyn Poore on tuba. The music here was all composed by Nabatov; prompted by the fact that he celebrated his sixtieth birthday in 2019, the six precisely-notated, chamber pieces—with a combined running time of sixty-three minutes—-are based on different ways in which time can be perceived. The six pieces were all executed with the help of a "digital conductor" which could be seen by each member of the septet. As that suggests, this music is far more controlled and structured than Dance Hall Stories, with horn solos being few and far between, and short interjections being commoner; the opening track, "Waves," typifies this as its ten-minutes-and-forty-seconds contain not one horn solo; instead, it features occasional horn sounds from all four players which are broken and sporadic —like the waves of the title, they rise up, break and then are gone until the next one comes along. Nabatov's piano is the most prominent instrument, leading and guiding the ensemble throughout. Having said that, each horn player is allowed one extended opportunity to shine; in Gratkowski's case, his showcase comes on the track "Reader" where he plays flute throughout, establishing the piece's calm pastoral mood before the arrival of Koch's synthesiser, and a bass solo from Manderscheld maintain the mood. Despite their differences, the six pieces are best heard together as an integrated whole. Nabatov says that "Time Labyrinth" is the first installment of a larger project called "Changing Perspectives" and he hopes to share the following parts in the near future. On this evidence, that is excellent news.

John Eyles

 NRW JAZZ Net March 2020

Ausführende Musiker der Studioaufnahme sind neben dem Komponisten am Klavier bekannte Musiker der Kölner Impro-Szene: Frank Gratkowski (as, cl, b-cl, fl), Matthias Schubert (ts), Dieter Manderscheid (b), Melvyn Poore (tuba), Hans W. Koch (synth) und Shannon Barnett (trb). Der musikalische Zugang zu dem abstrakt-philosophischen Thema erfolgt mit Hilfe eines digitalen Dirigenten als „Zeitgeber“. Labyrinthisch-geisterhaft beginnt der musikalische Diskurs mit Wave, auf- und abschwellend wechseln sich Pianoläufe und zum Teil kurze Bläsereinsätze ab, mikrotonale Verschiebungen beenden das wellenhafte Auf und Ab mit dem Zustand der zeitlosen Stille. Metamorph beginnt mit einem hyperschnellen, kakophon-nervösen Gegrummel aller Instrumente, das fast sieben Minuten hochenergetisch anhält, um am Ende in einen ruhigeren Aggregatzustand überführt zu werden. Reader, v.a. die Flöte von Frank Gratkowski, erinnert in der ausgeglichenen Ruhe zunächst an impressionistische „klassische“ Musik, die durch den Konterpart des Synthesizers aus dem Gleichgewicht gerissen wird. Dieter Manderscheids Kontrabass-Solo nimmt am Ende die anfängliche Stimmung wieder auf. Nach einem pochenden Auftakt werden in Right Off die Stimmen der Blechbläser vom Tutti kommentiert. Es entspinnt sich ein interessanter Dialog zwischen den Einzelstimmen, vor allem der der Posaune von Shannon Barnett und dem Ensemble. Repeated bietet ein beim ersten Hören eher amorphes Klanggebilde, dessen fein verwobenes Gewebe sich als genau konzipiertes Konstrukt eines raffinierten Zeitkontinuums entpuppt. Das letzte Stück, Choral, beginnt langsam-ruhig, bevor es dem Pianisten Gelegenheit gibt zu seinen Ausbrüchen auf 88 Tasten, die vom Ensemble fast „konventionell“ unterlegt werden, bevor der Höhepunkt in einer turbulenten Ensemble-Improvisation erreicht wird. Beendet wird das Stück mit einer „versöhnlichen“ Phrase.

Heinrich Brinkmöller-Becker

 Music Zoom March 2020

Il pianista di origine russa Simon Nabatov è come sempre al Loft di Colonia in Germania per una registrazione molto ambiziosa nel campo dell’avanguardia. È insieme a Frank Gratkowski al sax alto, clarinetti e flauto, Shannon Barnett trombonista australiana ma residente in Germania, Matthias Schubert al sax tenore, Melvyn Poore alla tuba, Dieter Manderscheid al contrabbasso e Hans W. Koch ai sintetizzatori. Le composizioni di Nabatov si snodano intorno al concetto di tempo, ogni volta interpretato in modo diverso e mettendo in luce un solista. Waves è una lunga esecuzione di più di dieci minuti in cui il collettivo si fa sentire secondo ondate che arrivano seguendo un ritmo che le collega. Su Metamorph il flusso sonoro continuo è percorso dall’assolo al sax tenore di Matthias Schubert, su Reader c’è Frank Gratkowski al flauto cui si aggiunge Hans W. Koch al sintetizzatore, alla fine dell’esecuzione arriva l’assolo di Dieter Manderscheid al contrabbasso. Su Right Off possiamo ascoltare l’assolo della trombonista Shannon Barnett mentre su Repeated, in cui si crea un’atmosfera sospesa e misteriosa, è Melvyn Poore con la sua tuba nella veste di solista. Il sesto è ultimo brano è Choral, dodici minuti e mezzo in cui il protagonista è il compositore e pianista Nabatov insieme al collettivo, qui la tela sonora si sfilaccia e si riorganizza, fino ad un momento di improvvisazione collettiva. Il tempo cambia in continuazione, quasi a volere testimoniare l’ineluttabilità del suo scorrere ed appaiono melodie inaspettate in mezzo ai collettivi free. Un disco molto originale che proietta l’avanguardia nel futuro.

Vittorio Lo Conte