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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 Jazz Journal UK August 2020

Time Labyrinth is the first part of a project called Changing Perspectives. Nabatov has explained “Turning 60 in 2019 I felt the need to reflect upon a few essential components of existence … Time, as a phenomenon, was top of the list, being the category every human life and every piece of music has to deal with.” Each of the compositions relates in some way to the perception of time. They are mostly precisely notated and the musicians are “conducted” by a computer programm they watch on a monitor. This performance was recorded in concert. I suppose you could apply that old-fashioned term “chamber jazz” to most of the pieces, but without the genteel connotations. Waves, Reader and Repeated are austere, disciplined, mainly quiet and with well-crafted counterpoint. Metamorph includes passages of all-in collective semi-chaos. Choral surprises with faint echoes of Birth Of The Cool in the scoring, whilst Right Off harries long lines with jagged, staccato riffs. At the root of each piece is a pre-conceived process, including permutations of a tone-row and evolution to and from sparse single-note passages to dense flows of sound. There are some exciting solos but the main thrust of the work is the written music for the ensemble. It calls for attentive listening to get the benefit of the inter-relationships of the parts of the ensemble and the developments of the material, but there is visceral excitement to grab your attention too. It will be interesting to hear future installments of the Perspectives project.

Barry Witherden

 Jazz Word August 2020

Nabatov, who has played with stylists including Nils Wogram and Mark Dresser, convenes a chamber-music-style septet of close collaborators to interpret six brand-new compositions based on different conceptions of time. Besides a long history with the pianist, the septet members on Time Labyrinth are also an imposing crew. Shannon Barnett plays trombone; Melvyn Poore, tuba; Martin Schubert tenor saxophone; Dieter Manderscheid, bass and Hans W. Koch, synthesizer. Frank Gratkowski not only plays alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and flute, but created the Max/MSP patch seen on every musician’s monitor as digital conductor to preserve the time grid of Nabatov’s exploratory compositions. The Nabatov session moves from an introduction of near silence to create themes which include individual instrumental extensions inside suggestions of moderated menace. Some are moody and layered with the likes of mid-range flute expressions, oscillated buzzes and string resonation that elaborate tones without reaching resolution. A couple such as the extended “Repeated”, spangle an essay in tone suspension with vigorous clarinet trills, piano glissandi and even cornucopia-wide guttural tuba snarls without upsetting the unfolding horizontal action. While this delicacy can be appreciated, the full extent of Nabatov’s skill is better displayed on those tunes which are more energetic than enervated such as “Metamorph” and “Right Off”. The first charges out of the gate with a variation of speedy, high volume continuum with horn swoops and flutters, keyboard clicks and later Aylerian, reed-biting screams from Schubert, plunger guffaws from Barnett. However the pianist’s chill exposition prevents a descent into sonic chaos, as a bit of flowery silent-movie-house-like accompaniment is strengthened into pressured clips that join with synthesizer whines for concentrated connections. A 12-tone mash up, “Right Off” works extended pauses into a narrative that otherwise is split between a yearning trombone story telling with deeply felt moderated grace notes and double tonguing and a gradual turn to micro toughness. Granulated telephone exchange-like noises from the synthesizer, reed puffs and hard piano key clipping is finally subsumed into a concentrated exposition from all the players followed by a brief coda of downwards squirming piano lines. With the final “Choral” cleverly arranged so that this piano showcase frames the showy-to- simple keyboard expressions in undulating pitches, the layer finally separate for an intense alto saxophone solo. With another layered coda that is as much hopeful as it is hymn-like it appears in this context that Nabatov has demonstrated his mature compositional skills.

Ken Waxman

 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

 Nieuwe Notes November 2021

On the two albums for larger ensembles, which pianist Simon Nabatov recently realized for Leo Records, he shows himself to be a particularly gifted composer, in a style that is somewhere between jazz and contemporary composition. For 'Time Labyrith' he got six colleagues, for 'Loves' there were ten. And there are no duplications. We find well-known names like Frank Gratkowski and Dominik Mahnig, with whom Nabatov also made 'Dance Music Hall', which passed here two days ago, Matthias Schubert, Dieter Manderscheid, Hans W. Koch, Axel Porath and Stefan Schönegg, but also some more unknown although that could of course be just me. On 'Time Labyrinth' we first hear four wind players, consisting of two reeds, Gratkowski and Schubert and two heavy brass, Shannon Barnett on trombone and Melvyn Poore on tuba. Also on double bass Manderscheid, on synthesizer Koch and on piano Nabatov himself. A special set of instruments, especially the combi trombone – tuba, colors the music in a special way. The title of opener 'Waves' is well chosen, the sounds come and go, like waves in the surf. There is not much structure in it, Nabatov seems to be primarily concerned with the nature of the sound. There is even less structure in 'Metamorph', Nabatov himself calls these "chaotic movement fragments", so it's not just me. And yet, here too there is an undulating aspect, only a few bars faster and in Nabatov's playing I sometimes hear a hint of ragtime, without a doubt a wonderful piece. Incidentally, this is an album full of contrasts, as our Reader learns. Because as chaotic as 'Metamorph' sounds, it is so melodic. I have never heard Gratkowski on a flute so serene and melodious. And speaking of solo roles, Barnett can be heard extensively on 'Right Off', unbelievable what this musician can get out of her trombone.

Ben Taffijn

 All About Jazz Italy December 2020

Registrato il 17 aprile 2019 a Colonia, "Time Labyrinth" è la prima parte di un progetto di Simon Nabatov denominato Changing Perspectives, che sarà completato nel prossimo futuro. Il pianista e compositore di origine russa vive nella città tedesca da quasi tre decenni ed è una figura di primo piano nell'universo della musica improvvisata europea ai confini tra jazz d'avanguardia e musica classica contemporanea. Le sei composizioni che costituiscono l'opera si collocano decisamente nell'ambito della musica contemporanea anche se in qualche momento troviamo assonanze con elementi tipici del post-free: sono brani da camera quasi completamente scritti per un ensemble senza strumenti ritmici o percussivi. Tra i componenti del settetto troviamo suoi partner di lunga data come i sassofonisti Frank Gratkowski e Matthias Schubert e il contrabbassista Dieter Manderscheid. Il substrato del progetto è filosofico: rappresentare alcune componenti essenziali dell'esistenza e il questo caso il tempo come fenomeno, stimolato dalla lettura di Palomar, la raccolta di racconti di Italo Calvino. La struttura di ognuna delle sei composizioni—suggestive ma non di facile fruizione-viene illustrata nel booklet dallo stesso Nabatov e si sviluppa con andamento rigoroso tra quadri austeri e altri di libera improvvisazione collettiva. Il flusso musicale di "Metamorph" si snoda secondo un processo dialettico di tesi, antitesi e sintesi. "Reader" si divide tra momenti di astratta compostezza flautistica (Gratkowski), nervosi confronti tra questi e il synth nella parte centrale e un controllato confronto collettivo in chiusura. "Repeated" crea un clima temporale sospeso che confluisce nel singolare intervento di Melvyn Poore alla tuba. Il brano sicuramente più fruibile in prospettiva tradizionale è il conclusivo "Choral," che fa scontrare schegge musicali astratte con una radioso frammmento tematico fino ad alterarne i tratti. Un'opera coraggiosa e ricca, che conferma il talento compositivo di Nabatov.

Angelo Leonardi

 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

 Tokyo Jazz Journal June 2020

4管セプテットでナバトフが綴る即興室内楽  今月ナバトフは同時に2作をリリースしているが、まずはこちらを紹介しよう。おなじみのフランク・グラトウスキ以下ケルンを中心に活動しているミュージシャンを集めてナバトフが展開しているのは、緻密に構成され、それでいて自由が横溢する音楽。“時”をテーマにした6曲は、カオスが支配するように見えながら7人のタイム感覚がひとつになって躍動感を生み出す2をはじめ、ナバトフのコンポジションがそれぞれ異なる色彩を放っている。(大村)

Omura Yukinori