Knimes Acoustic Group ‘Adventures in Improvised Music’ LP (Envelope) 4/5

Adventures in Improvised Music is the fulfilment of drummer, producer and composer Matthijs de Ritter’s long-held ambition to release a jazz album as a leader. His recording alias is knimes, previous releases have a hybrid electronic sound and a drum and bass vibe but headed into jazz territory with the recent addition of Jasper Blom on sax. He describes himself as ‘genre blurring’ true of previous recordings perhaps but this one is pretty much straight-ahead jazz with a distinct 60s feel to it. The music is informed by his fascination for the sound of the chord-less trios of that period, he cites Sonny Rollins’ Live at the Village Vanguard as an inspirational example. Composer and producer de Ritter is also an avid collector of records, jazz, hip hop, soul, Motown in particular and has been known to share his musical tastes by offering DJ sets following his live performances.

The quartet features Jose Cervera (alto sax) Yiannis Marinos (trombone) Ignasio Santoro (double bass) and knimes (drums). They have strong connections to The Royal Conservatory in the Hague, Cervera and Santoro being alumni while Marinos has taught there.

The opening track, ‘3.12’ sets expectations high with a spacious open sound. It’s a four minute upbeat and energised homage to soul-jazz. The addition of trombone, an instrument knimes is fascinated by the sonic possibilities of, is used by Marinos to become a wailing siren, momentarily enveloping the rest of the band with insistent waves of sound.

One of the standout tracks on the LP is ‘Journey Through Sound and Colors’ the bass intro is stately in pace with a sense of foreboding, cymbals shimmer, it feels like a spiritual jazz theme, the effect is heavy but with a balance between light and dark elements. There’s also a tension between the sax and trombone, a concentrated dialogue with Marinos’ trombone riff providing a rock solid structure around which the tune can evolve.

This is followed by the bluesy ‘DC’ which sees Cervera in a mood reminiscent of Coltrane’s mellower and sweeter 60s tones. As I listened, the thought struck me that the music has a very clean sound to it, and sure enough, the next tune up is actually titled ‘Clean’, it’s sharp, angular and brings to mind passages from the Mingus album Ah Um. ‘The Haunt’ follows in a similar vein sounding not dissimilar to Mingus’ ‘Fables of Faubus’. The two tracks make a natural pair, at first I thought they sounded too similar but once I’d figured what they reminded me of it made more sense.

Another standout track is the wonderfully titled ‘Be A Vampire’, the band explore a more current sound, its syncopated rhythms excite with the drum and bass vibe that knimes has explored on previous outings. This tune lives up to the ‘genre blurring’ promise with its contemporary edge.

‘Waltz for Gloria’ ties in neatly with the earlier hints of spiritual jazz in ‘A Journey Through Sound and Colors’ this time with the addition of Cervera’s flute making the connection explicit. The tone of the trombone really brings a deep sense of colour to the music here. The addition of this instrument and the way it’s featured throughout the album shows a real finesse at the heart of the group and from knimes himself.

The record closes with a birth, ‘The Birth of Joy’ perhaps acting as a signpost to the band’s future intentions.

James Read