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"Luminous" NoBusiness Records 2018


All About Jazz March 2019

Pianist Simon Nabatov, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Gerry Hemingway share many characteristics. All three serve as outstanding leaders in their own right, but also happen to be superlative improvisers. That latter trait that brings them together for the first time in an egalitarian summit on Luminous. This threesome was one of four new trios convened by Nabatov in 2015 as part of a project ..."still crazy after all these years" to celebrate his quarter century in the German city of Cologne. What ensues is a program of a dozen richly-detailed collective inventions. Recorded over two days in the city's famed LOFT venue, they are crammed with events, constant adjustment and inspired modulation. "Slip Away" provides just the first example of the intuitive interplay revisited in multiple guises across the 77-minute set. The track begins in nervy, edgy exchanges full of spiky edges derived from Hemingway's stuttery percussive pulse. Guy shifts between upper register plucks, resonant depths and scratchy bowing so deftly that it seems as if there are at least two bassists on the case. Nabatov rides among the resultant currents in a stream of notes with the independence of his hands adding complexity. To offset the intensity, the track ends with a lovely sequence of bass slurs sliding down the fingerboard, cosseted by exquisite piano. "Basket Glide," with Hemingway's marimba prominent, conjures images of droplets, ripples and slowly flowing rivers, demonstrating the trio's ongoing attention to sound placement, dynamics and variation. Brief consonances, like marimba and piano echoing a phrase, give listeners something to hang onto before paths diverge once more. This cut, like many others, contains a satisfyingly reflective coda that clears the air after the peppery give-and-take. It is the same in "Vacant Prophecy," another crenulated excursion, with Nabatov now extemporizing a dramatic melody, making it a shoo-in for airplay if such a choice were needed. Elsewhere the trio also explores delicate harmonics and reverberation, as in the fragile, tinkling "Shards Examined" and "Great Disparity"—although the latter morphs from high arco glissandos into bold interchange and breathless dash. "Scroll Back" moves from density to utmost transparency via airy percussion, metal rods vibrating between the bass's strings, and strikes onto the piano's innards. A nod to the conventional piano trio doesn't surface until the final "Unfrozen Sorrow," although even there the energy mounts through fast uncoiling lines and involved attack. This first-time meeting begs for a follow-up.

John Sharpe

March 2020

Few weeks before "Situations", Simon records another 
trio record at LOFT, but this time with the super-trio of free 
improvising Giants: Barry Guy and Gerry Hemingway.
This album, which was released by NoBusiness Records 
in 2018, should be attributed to all trio members. The 
music must be compared to the music of the two other 
piano trios involving Barry: Aurora Trio with Agustí
 Fernández and Ramón Lopez, and Ithaca Trio with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton. It is free improvised music 
superposed with free jazz, and even more traditional 
jazz forms - listen to the opening "Slide Away". "Basket
Guide" is my favorite, notable for the wonderful marimba 
lines by Gerry. "Vacant Prophesy" is more abstract, with 
very expressive piano chords and drumming, with Barry 
tranquilizing a little. "Parting" is a slow ballad with a 
very delicate motifs, and marvelous synergy  marimba 
can be heard here also. "Forty Days" is a little dark and 
scary track, with bowing bass creating the atmosphere. 
"Shard Examined"is a short masterpiece with marimba 
and finger-picked bass. "Great Disparity", a nine minute long piece, is another free ballad, with truly melodic 
motifs and tender moods. "Scroll Back", in contrast, is
an abstract piece, with piano phrases à la Cecil Taylor.
The title track "Luminous" is another masterpiece: a 
hymn with some ancient music accents, wonderful bass 
bowing and marimba lines. "Scattered Together" is a 
faster track with a more jazzy rhythm, while "Soothing 
Mirage" is yet another vehicle for Gerry's marimba, and 
another masterpiece of synergy mixed with delicacy. 
Finally, the closing "Unfrozen Sorrow", a ballad of 
extra-terrestrial beauty, that would probably squeeze 
tears from any stone. This album is for me the best of 
Simon Nabatov so far!!!

Maciej Lewenstein

Avant Music News June 2019

Collective improvisation can take several forms: abstract and textural; linear and polyphonic; dynamic and expressive. None these forms necessarily excludes any others, and much of the most engaging and satisfying collective improvisation will contain all of them, often in unexpected ways. This is true of Luminous, a particularly gratifying set of collective improvisations produced by three of improvised music’s most accomplished and well-rounded players. The trio on Luminous was put together in 2015 by pianist Simon Nabatov, a Russian émigré who settled in Cologne by way of New York. The other two members are percussionist Gerry Hemingway, an American now resident in Switzerland, and British bassist Barry Guy. All three have extensive backgrounds in contemporary and, in Guy’s case, early, composed music as well as in a broad gamut of improvised musics, all of which tells in the music on this recording. The twelve tracks range from the driving, percussive sounds of Slip Away, the galvanizing opening piece; through the brooding introspection of Forty Days; and to the timeless, long tones of the title track. Nabatov’s contributions can be forcefully fragmented and dissonant, gently melodic, or skittishly urgent. Hemingway here, as in all his work, shows himself to be a consummate colorist with a refined sense of space. On some of the pieces, he plays tuned percussion, which brings in a fascinating set of pitch and timbre contrasts and resemblances to Nabatov’s piano. Guy’s bass, played conventionally and with extended techniques, rounds out the collective sound with a muscular, often rough-hewn beauty.

Daniel Barbiero

Squid's Ear December 2019

I am thinking of the responsibilities of an accomplished improviser. An inborn ability of handling an infinitude of acoustic circumstances to synthesize the "feel of the instantaneous" while still respecting a series of norms; social norms, if you will. The necessity of keeping the ego in check; sensibly understanding when restraint is preferable to emphasis; and, in that regard, the development of a high-yielding intercommunication with equally gifted performers. To all of the above, add the obvious need of involving an eager audience in what's being expressed; or, in the worst case scenario (not infrequent in large-scale jazz festivals), of having to oppose — when not conform — a potentially enriching joint sonority to a gathering of distracted, and frequently noisy people. Conversely, the inquisitive listener looks for a mix of sudden openings, dramatic suspensions of disbelief and enlightening confirmations, all of this possibly occurring beyond any conventional "expectation". Simon Nabatov, Barry Guy and Gerry Hemingway — respectively piano, double bass and drums, for those born today — are among the men for the job when it comes to that. Luminous — recorded in 2015 at Cologne's Loft — comprises over 77 minutes of skillful interaction. It is, purely and simply, an album for connoisseurs; at the same time, its variable intricacy never translates into difficulty for the sake of it. These gentlemen seriously mean every note they emit, turning creative clairvoyance into a sonic concreteness which is both poetic and clear-sighted. The music's extemporaneous traits are defined by a common lack of trust for standardized "freedom" and unfruitful presuppositions. A detailed analysis of the interstices between quietness and talkativeness can be followed by a turbulent outburst; a single instrumentalist may build a little castle of sand for a few instants, only to become one with the foam of his comrades' dynamizing ripples a minute later. The moments where "tranquillity" rhymes with "conformity" are rare, the musicians privileging paths of untainted intuition amidst constantly shifting, and often severely atonal contrapuntal volumes. This notwithstanding, at any given moment they stop on a particular pitch, reiterate a fragment of phrase, or produce whispering overtones to confirm their position in the improvisational topography. Either collectively, or by glancing at each other while contemplating on the instrument, they systematically manage to reach the unstated destination.

Massimo Ricci

Free Jazz Blog July 2019

On Luminous, Köln-based pianist Simon Nabatov joins Guy and Hemingway for improvisations lasting 12 tracks across 70 minutes. This is the first time Nabatov has recorded with Guy, but he’s recorded with Hemingway on Live At The Bimhuis 21-9-12 with Oğuz Büyükberber (who provides the colorful cover art for Luminous) and on this years Readings - Red Cavalry and Readings - Gileya Revisited. Indicated by the title, this recording is more high-volume, high-density than Illuminated Silence. Guy’s playing is more physical and Hemingway is more energetic here, with two awesome hard-hitting solos on “Vacant Prophecy” and “Unfrozen Sorrow.” Nabatov utilizes the full register of the keyboard - usually simultaneously - with a variety of approaches to time, density, and volume, often expertly accenting the rhythm section’s interplay with a percussive motif like the single hammered note on “Basket Glide.” When Hemingway joins Nabatov with a marimba (on “Basket Glide,” Shards Examined,” “Luminous,” and “Soothing Mirage”), magic happens, with each player dialing in to the intricacies of the other’s playing and crossing paths in such a way that you might mistake the marimba for piano, and vice versa, for just a moment. Especially on “Soothing Mirage,” which also sees Guy’s muted plucks mimic a tik tok while Nabatov palms inside the piano to create a chiming clock. Nabatov’s varied, percussive, sometimes thunderous attack with some extended techniques compliment Guy and Hemingway’s approach well, but several of the tracks tend to fall into a quiet-loud-quiet or continuous climactic crescendo structure and, somewhat paradoxically, though it’s an energetic performance there’s an urgency that feels lost in the recording. Like Illuminated Silence, it’s well worth listening to as a document of Guy and Hemingway’s colorful interplay and Nabatov’s raw talent as well as that amazing communication between marimba and piano.

Keith Prosk

Jazz Podium April 2019

Im Oktober 2015 kam es im Kölner Loft zu einem Gipfeltreffen des Avantgarde Jazz, das jetzt auf dem litauischen Label NoBusiness erscheint. Für Pianist Simon Nabatov, den gebürtigen Russen, zwischenzeitlichen New Yorker und langjährigen Kölner, war es ein Heimspiel. Zu Besuch kamen der Engländer Barry Guy am Bass und der Amerikaner Gerry Hemingway am Schlagzeug. Das Trio bietet Gruppenimprovisation ohne Netz und Sicherung zwischen Wohlklang und heftigster Dissonanz. Die Begriffe Zeit, Takt und Rhythmus werden hier sehr relativ und sind ebenso Elemente der Improvisation wie Melodie und Harmonie. Das Spektrum reicht von Nabatov’s zartem Streicheln der Tasten in „Forty Days“ über Hemingway’s melodische Marimba zu Nabatov’s Klavierperlen in „Basket Glide“ bis zu Guy’s dumpfen Basseskapaden zu Nabatov’s Klavierstakkato und Hemingway’s Schlagzeug-Unwetter in „Vacant Prophecy“. Die zwölf Titel der CD bieten eine Tour de Force zum Stand der Kunst freier Improvisation. Nichts für Ängstliche, aber lohnend für Mutige.

Hans-Bernd Kittlaus

Jazz Weekly March 2019

Pianist Simon Nabatov, bassist Barry Guy and Gerry Hemingway on drums, marimba and voice create 12 exotic moods on this 2015 recording. Hemingway’s marimbas is a good call, adding African exoticism to “Parting” and “Basket Glide” while his brushes team with spacious piano and bass for an incandescent “Scroll Back.” The team gets a bit bluesy for “Forty Days” but also shows some friskiness as they fragment on “Shades Examined” and “Vacant  Prophecy.” Intuitive and mystical.

George W. Harris

Salt Peanuts January 2019

De tre musikerne, Simon Nabatov, Barry Guy og Gerry Hemmingway, er langtfra ukjente for hverandre eller andre som følger den frittgående, europeiske jazzen på nært hold. Pianisten Nabatov hørte jeg første gang solo for en del år siden på en festival i Frankrike, og allerede da satte han spor i undertegnedes lille hjerne. Barry Guy har jeg hørt en rekke ganger, både solo, duo med sin fru, og i større sammenhenger, mens Hemmingway har vært å høre med egne band, samt i samarbeid med blant andre Anthony Braxton og Marilyn Crispell. På «Luminous» har plateselskapet klart å presse inn hele 12 «strekk», hvor alt er fritt improvisert der og da på LOFT i Køln den 30. og 31. oktober i 2015. Og det er en fascinerende reise vi blir invitert med på. Fra det totalt frie «Slip Away», via den nesten balinesiske «Basket Glide». Men det balinesiske varer ikke så lenge. Snart er de tilbake der de startet, med fri kommunikasjon. For musikere som begir seg ut i et såpass fritt landskap, må det være en stor utfordring å få «samtaler» som dette til å fungere såpass bra at det kan utgis på skive. Det kreves nok at alle musikerne har en god dag, og at de stiller på scenen med vidåpne ører og de andre sanseorganene på vid gap. Og det synes jeg de gjør på denne konserten. Det er musikk man skal sette seg ned med, og høre mange ganger før man feller noen som helst dom. Det er musikk man helst bør nyte mens den skapes og fremføres, men for oss med inntekter på linje med en rumensk tigger, har man sjelden mulighet til bare å sette seg på toget eller flyet og reise til Køln for å gå på konsert. Musikken er, i hovedsak, heftig og pågående, og det er bare tidvis at de tar det ned på balladenivå. Men selv i de rolige partiene er det en energi i musikken som gjør godt for sjelen. De tre musikerne er mestre på hvert sitt instrument, og hele veien kan jeg føle Cecil Taylors nærvær, særlig i en del av partiene hvor  Nabatov «løsner på slipset» og «tar av». En spennende innspilling jeg vil spille mye, og som jeg vil komme mer og mer inn i for hver gang jeg spiller den. For slik er denne musikken. Dess oftere man går inn i den, dess mer forstår man av hva de tre musikerne holder på med.

Jan Granlie