Muriel Grossmann ‘Reverence’ 2LP (RR GEMS) 5/5

I’m going to cut to the chase, I love this record. Last year Golden Rule blew me away and I really feared that Muriel and her quartet wouldn’t be able to top it. But I’m delighted to report I was wrong. It’s a joy and a privilege to hear such a wonderful album. If Golden Rule was permeated with the spirit of John Coltrane then ‘Reverence’ which with its swirling organs, gorgeous strings, and Radomir Milojkovic’s driving guitar is exploring the paths first travelled by Alice Coltrane, Miles electric bands and Larry Young. It is powerful, insistent, creative and joyous music anchored by an amazingly tight rhythm section that grooves like hell.

‘Reverence’ is a record that consistently and respectfully draws on Africa influences to create wonderful, memorable, multi-layered, original and exuberant tunes. ‘Water Bowl’ is a bass-heavy afro-beat shuffle punctuated by some deep and funky solos with Barcelo’s staccato organ coming over like James Brown in the Africa 70. On album opener, ‘Okan Ti Aye’, a Yoruba phrase meaning Heart of the World, Gina Schwarz, and drummer Uros Stamenkovic create a cacophony of bass-led percussion, while Milojkovic and Grossman fiercely ride the changes.

Grossman has a wonderfully warm and rich sound and uses it to great effect on ‘Union’. Her soprano dances over the sonic excursions of Llorenç Barceló on Hammond and that super tight rhythm section, which is augmented by an array of drones, string and percussion instruments, creating a pulsing and beautiful polyrhythmic tune which acknowledges and pays tribute to the African roots and legacy of jazz.

‘Chase’ starts with the sumptuous interplay between drums and saxophone before settling into another intense percussive groove Grossman’s solos are 100 miles an hour, exciting and exploratory and gloriously powerful, a musician confident in her own sound and ready to share it with the world.

‘Sundown’ is a wonderous and peaceful, spiritual meditation with strings and keys creating the perfect atmosphere for Grossmann’s beautifully melodic solos and it is one of many highlights on an outstanding record. Another highlight is the bass of Gina Schwarz. Her introduction to ‘Tribu’ is stunning, as are the exchanges between Hammond and Horn and throughout the record she is the potent and concentrated rhythmic pulse, creating a solid and yet creative canvas for the vibrant and resonant explorations of the rest of the group.

The core of this band has been together for nearly four years and you can hear that this in their playing. Radomir Milojkovic’s guitar gives the group a unique and distinct sound, his solos on ‘Afrika Mahala’ take the instrument into new worlds. Llorenç Barceló’s organ is a revelation as far away from the sixties soul-jazz trios as you could imagine but still evoking that richly sonorous, joyful and spiritual sound of Sun Ra and those later Blue Note sides by Larry Young.

The final track ‘Morning’ epitomises the whole record, with marimbas, strings, shakers and whistles setting the tone for a gloriously searching and celebratory tune that captures the sound of a group that is still growing, evolving, experimenting and surging towards its creative peak.

Nick Schlittner

Read also:
Muriel Grossmann ‘Golden Rule’ 2LP (RR Gems) 5/5
Muriel Grossmann 2019 interview