Michael Thieke Unununium

What characterises saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Thieke’s music throughout this thoroughly engaging CD is its bristling intelligence. Each piece is the result of a penetrating gaze at the possibilities inherent in the musical seeds found in the compositions themselves. His quartet’s sound, comprised of round-toned bass by Derek Shirley, colour filled accordion and prepared piano by Luca Venitucci and lucidly conversational drums by Eric Schaefer, spans an orchestra’s textures and sonorities ranging from gamelan metals to woody resonances and breathy whispers of woodwinds. While this is free jazz, the strength of each piece comes from the freedom with which its solid structure is explored by the four gifted improvisers. This isn’t a "blowfest” of the ecstatic school. Nor does it indulge in the tentative twitters of the minimalist approach. Its full-throated playing is passionate without becoming hysterical, abstract without becoming vague or impenetrable. From the rolling tom-toms and insistent bass of "Fünf Treppen” to electro-acoustic pinging in "Element 110” to the exotic triptych of "Der Idiot,” Unununium reveals an imaginative world filled with surprising locales and intriguing inhabitants. That Thieke recorded one of the most intimate, best sounding jazz CDs in recent memory himself is further evidence of his impressive talents. Highly recommended. (Charhizma)