Cadence 2011

The Donat Fisch quartet on teams Fisch’s alto or tenor saxophone with Scherrer’s tenor and the supple rhythm team of bassist Oester and drummer Pfammatter. From the snaky open­ing of “Staika,” the first of Fisch’s original compositions, the band projects an easy-going warmth and unity. No surprise, really, since all four of these musicians have a long history with one another. The sensitive and dynamic Pfammatter, for instance, played on Fisch’s first recording, back in 1991, and, with Oester, recorded as a trio in 2005. Two-saxophone units like this have plenty of models to work from. Scherrer, veteran of the Vienna Art Orchestra and the CoJazz coöperative ensemble, and Fisch seem to have modeled their interactions on those of Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh or the Paul Desmond/Gerry Mulligan quartet of 1962, with the occasional nod to Ornette Coleman’s quartets. More complementary than confrontational, on tunes like the energetic “Stabbursdalen,” Fisch and Scherrer finish one another’s phrases with the casual aplomb of old supportive friends. (Glad the package supplies channel information for the saxes.) Oester’s authoritative bass anchors the music, with a lot of vintage Charlie Haden in his sound. I’m think­ing particularly of his featured solo on the meditative “Tarraure,” a lovely Ornette Coleman flavored piece. The saxes are back in each other’s faces on the hard-grooving “Elf Elfen,” where they’re a bit more combative in response to Pfammatter’s mighty beat. He also takes a succinct solo toward the end. “Desmond” flies out of the gate. In its slightly rushed pace, the piece doesn’t strike me as especially Desmond-esque, but Fisch’s alto solo partakes of his lyricism and smooth sound. Scherrer, by contrast, roughs things up a bit with a rollicking solo. After another drum solo, the saxes take it out with style. Another ballad, the mournful “Elva,” shows the band at its most laid-back. Oester’s solo here is calmly beauti­ful, avoiding the trap of reducing the already slow tempo to almost nothing. The saxes return together then diverge into counterlines, keeping the emotional atmosphere intact. “Tundra” rolls along with a steady attack by Pfammatter and Oester supporting an inquisi­tive sax solo by Fisch and another stirring duet passage when Scherrer soars in on tenor. The snaky and low-key “Mehamn” features a breathy Fisch with spooky tom-toms prominent in the accom­paniment. “Holiday Inn,” appropriately enough, references the kind of American folk-song structures that Bill Frisell relies on so often. It’s jaunty and open, giving Oester a chance to get funky and Pfammatter an opportunity to rummage all over his kit, including the rims. Fisch and Scherrer, as usual, make the most of it, romp­ing and sparring gently until the end. They go outside on the closing “Merlodie,” beginning with a stately round of the quartet and slowly warming up into a peaceful ballad featuring Fisch’s wispy tenor until the music dissolves back into silence. Fisch not only writes pieces that give the band a sturdy framework for their improvisations, but he’s sequenced the disc with care, mixing tempos and feelings in a way that keeps you listening all the way through. Tuneful, deeply swinging, this music only gets better with successive listenings. Heartily recommended.

Stuart Kremsky

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