CD REVIEW: Sketchbook Quartet – When was the last time Vol I?


Sketchbook Quartet – When was the last time Vol I?
(Sessionwork records SWR108. Review by Peter Slavid)

Sketchbook Quartet is a Vienna-based group who describe themselves as post-jazz. I'm never entirely sure what that means, but what you get here is a mixture of prog-rock with chamber jazz and a set of strong rhythms that shift around. It's foot-tapping material most of the time – but you have to keep changing the speed at which you tap.

The band is: Alexander Wallner (guitar
), Leonhard Skorupa (saxophone, clarinet, synth, samples),
Daniel Moser (bass clarinet, fx
), Konstantin Kräutler (drums).

The album opens with the title track. It starts with a recording of the phrase "When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo," spoken by Donald Trump back in 2015. The music then starts with some loud skronking retro rock beats leading into a pleasant melody with some syncopated solos between the reeds. Then it shifts into a mish-mash of surfer rock, '50s cinema and squealing improv.  It's not entirely clear to me why this track is called Ashley, but some of the subsequent track titles do refer back to the album title.

The second track Die Erleuchtung (the Enlightenment) might do. It starts out as a much more intricate chamber jazz with constantly shifting rhythms over a bass pulse until it suddenly develops a rather strange creaking noise followed by another passage of shifting rhythms.

It's a lot easier to see the thematic link in the title of Chief Carrot, although the music starts out as the most conventional so far. There are melodic passages here particularly in a fine solo from Tausch.

The closing track, Moonshiner, was the stand-out track for me.  It starts with a short, twanging guitar solo which then develops into a persistent almost surfer riff which the other instruments gradually join. As with other tracks this doesn't last – it suddenly slows into a bass clarinet solo which in turn becomes the riff behind the ensemble. There's a terific sax solo over the next set of riffs which becomes more and more frantic before it all slows down and fades out.

This is not music that sits still for long. It has plenty of melody, but those melodies keep changing.  The tunes are mostly composed by Skorupa and Wallner (possibly in different rooms at the time), the time signatures shift around as well.

This is four talented young musicians having fun and delivering a most enjoyable album.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on http://thejazz.co.uk/redtrain-express/ and mixcloud.com/ukjazz

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