"A Few Incidences" Leo Records 2005
All About Jazz May 2005
....Jazz and poetry collide in a much more dramatic and daunting way on this recording by staggeringly gifted Russian pianist Simon Nabatov, always challenging himself and listeners by working on the borders of jazz, classical and improvised musics.
Nabatov takes as his launching point the surreal and often violent poetry of Daniil Kharms, one of many victims of the Soviet State under Stalin. For Nabatov, Kharms symbolizes the artist who resists all that is conventional and, in particular, the apparatus of the state. It is the third of the pianist's settings of Russian writers - he's also done Brodsky and Bulgakov - and he once again finds a personal and adventurous way to "interpret" the text. The poet here is voiced by the inimitable Phil Minton, who uses a vast array of vocal techniques to enrich his reading of the poetry. Together with what was formally Nature Morte - also including Nils Wogram and Frank Gratkowski - Nabatov marshals the forces of cello, bass, drums and live electronics. The music ranges from raucous to meditative with a world of emotional states in between. The players combine in different groupings and constantly suggest a sense of inventive playfulness even when the poetry is troubled. A revelation is "The Start of a Very Nice Summer's Day", on which out of a brooding and ominous introduction blooms a haunting and pointed ballad. The band plays in unison and is then joined by Minton speaking Kharms' ironic text. As Stuart Broomer suggests in his notes, Nabatov's music makes vital and necessary the beauty in the darkness."
Pure genius. The augmented line-up on this disc puts Nabatov's uncompromising piano even further into the background, but it's a far more satisfying conception and performance.
DMG Newsletter April 2006
For each of the six discs that Mr. Nabatov has done for the Leo label, he has used a different number of collaborators, from solo, duo (w/ Han Bennink), trio, quartet, quintet (Mark Feldman, Robertson, Helias & Rainey) and here is his octet project with a stellar and diverse crew. 'A Few Incidences' is in memoriam to Nikolai Dmitriev and based on texts by Daniil Kharms. Well-recorded live at Loft in Cologne in April of 2004. Phil Minton's often ridiculous and hilarious vocal antics just one part of this marvelous, creative and well-balanced octet. After a brilliant opening section of subtle electronics, twisted vocals and the minimal, thoughtful ensemble parts, they launch into some intricate charted territories. They use "free" segments at well-placed punctuation between the fragmentary charts. This is truly progressive jazz, with a seamless yet invisible connection between the written and unwritten areas. Absolutely bewitching.
one final note March 200
...Here, Nabatov turns to the writings of Daniil Kharms, an early 20th Century underground Soviet writer who created works that ranged from skewed children's poems to dark short pieces that share an absurdist sensibility similar to authors like Beckett or Ionesco (though he pre-dated both.) The pianist has cultivated a group of musicians well-versed in his strategies and this time he fills the ensemble out to an octet. Minton, Gratkowski, and Wogram return, and cellist Ernst Reijseger, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Michael Sarin are added. But the real master-stroke is the inclusion of Cor Fuhler on live electronics and keyolin (a keyboard-driven violin invented by Fuhler) to broaden the timbral range.
With this crew, Nabatov is able to assemble settings that move freely from jazz-based forms to blizzarding counterpoint to collective improvisation. These are orchestrated frameworks that are then collectively deconstructed and dynamically reassembled. Nabatov cannily uses the text as signpost and compositional element, rather than simply creating musical set pieces. There are sections where Minton's readings of the text are central and others where his lithe scat and vocal extremes simply hint at the underlying text.
But each of the musicians can dive in at any moment to shadow or comment on the text. Wogram's braying smears, Gratkowski's searing reed playing, and Fuhler's skittering electronics are all perfect foils for Minton. The leader uses his piano to block out the direction and forms, but never boxes in the constantly morphing pieces. He is aided here as well by Penman and Sarin, who know how to propel the improvisations with implied pulses and constantly shifting momentum.
The group can fly in to querulous cacophony only to slip in to tight hocketed lines that ping-pong around the ensemble. There are even flashes of lushness, making the most of the string section to fill out the ensemble sound, or opening up for Minton's crooning voice that wells along, riding right at the edge of wild abandon. Wrapping things up, Fuhler stretches and warps a recording of a Russian actor reading one of Kharms "children's" poems. He refracts and blurs it in to static against the jumpcut swagger of the ensemble, sounding like he is pulling in a signal from deep space and finally scumbling it into stuttering blasts of noise. As good as Nabatov's previous recordings are, this one eclipses them all and should not be missed.
...Eindeutiger Höhepunkt dieser kleinen Auswahl ist das Simon Nabatov Octet der mit A Few Incidences und Musikern aus der Spitzengruppe des aktuellen Jazz, zum Beispiel Phil Minton, Nils Wogram, Ernst Reijseger, Frank Gratkowski oder Cor Fuhler die Texte seines Landsmanns Daniil Kharms wie für das Theater inszeniert. Kharms außergewöhnliche und oft surreale Texte geraten in Mintons Händen zu bühnengleichen Auftritten, bei denen sich seine Ideen in ebenso poetische Stimmen der anderen Solisten verwandeln, zum Beispiel bei dem Saxophon von Frank Gratkowski, ganz nah an dem Ausdruck der menschliche Stimme.
Hans-Jürgen von Osterhausen
DUSTED REVIEWS 2006
Simon Nabatov is a dazzling jazz pianist whose insane technique and compositional creativity have long been matched by an intriguing tendency to synthesize genres (and not just musical ones). Having made his reputation playing in the trio format with Mark Helias and Tom Rainey, Nabatov has since the late 1990s branched out to experiment with text-based projects. His initial foray was with Joseph Brodsky's Nature Morte, followed up by the splendid variations on Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. Here he appropriates the texts of Russian poet Daniil Kharms, setting them to fascinating, complex music with the aid of vocalist Phil Minton (who's at his best on these kinds of projects), reedist/flautist Frank Gratkowski, trombonist Nils Wogram, cellist Ernst Reijseger, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Michael Sarin, and wild card Cor Fuhler on live electronics and keyolin. Now that's a helluva band.
The ensemble passages are as fine as ever, brimming with the rich contrapuntal language that is such a delightful part of Nabatov's playing (and which is reflected in his compositions too). Consider, for example, the declamatory pulse track that evolves slowly from "And That's All" the wending lines of "An Encounter", or the occasional bluesy abstractions that waft up from the skittering improv passages. Further, Nabatov's writing includes more playful settings for text, taking perhaps better advantage of Minton"s capabilities than even the fine Nature Morte. The unpredictable rhythms and sudden shifts in these pieces are rooted in Kharms' musings, and there's a real freshness to the sound.
...the nine pieces each brim with specific feelings, as with the elegiac "Kalindov" or the gorgeous "The Start of a Very Nice Summer's Day", which overflows with joy and lyricism during a jaw-dropping passage for Wogram and Minton. But while it's exhilarating to hear this band in full voice, Nabatov has taken care to ensure that - even with an expanded group - he provides ample room for sub-groupings to flourish. It's here where the band really mixes it up, blending barnyard cacophony with refined bagatelles. Of these sub-groupings, those involving Fuhler, Minton, and Gratkowski are particularly satisfying, though one highlight is surely Reijseger's cello in the lovely chamber excursus "On Equilibrium". ...That the 80 minute-long disc is so compelling and leaves such a powerful impression is a tribute to Nabatov's skill and his importance.
By Jason Bivins