Album Review - Nicolas Kummert - La Diversité - Edition Records

Edition Records have developed an impressive roster of European jazz musicians. Hailing from Belgium, Nicolas Kummert is a powerful tenor saxophonist whose sound is full of subtlety and character.  

The album opens with Rainbow People, which features an emphatic melody over a purposefully wonky groove. Lionel Loueke uses a modern guitar sound similar to Kurt Rosenwinkel, complete with a hint of vocal in the background. The drumming of Karl Jannuska is driving and propulsive in the way Elvin Jones used to ignite the John Coltrane Quartet. The tenor sax sound is littered with subtle inflections. Kummert flows effortlessly up and down the register of the instrument in his melodically engaging solo.  

Le Vent Se Leve has a backdrop of crystal like guitar harmonics with brief forays in to percussive chordal work. Kummert weaves webs of lyrical improvisations over the top. There is a collision of old and new on Harmattan. The sax, bass and drums play an aggressive straight improvisation while the effected guitar sound brings a modern, otherworldly atmosphere to the piece. The drums maintain the groove but improvise heavily. Emphasis is more on the soundscape and textures created than on individual expression.  

On Lighthouse, Kummert improvises around spoken vocal lines. The sax is breathy and subdued yet quietly intense. The vocal sound coming through the instrument has an animal quality, inspired by traditional African music. The groove behind the improvisation is gentle and calming and the drum mallets create a constantly shimmering textural backdrop. Loueke's solo creeps in and out of tonality, creating tension without resorting to aggression. When the guitar and sax play together, the composition takes a mournful turn before concluding with a simple and soothing chord sequence. 

The African theme is continued on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah where the bass takes the lead over simple, muted guitar chords. Nicolas Thys' solo shows technical capability but remains melodic, using quick runs and textural double stops. The melody of the piece doesn’t become obvious until the end when Kummert introduces it, following a rousing improvisation. 

Eric Satie’s Gnossienne is performed in two parts. The first in a gentle and lurking way where melodies creep in and out of the foreground. The reverberant, bent notes of the guitar give the performance a sinister atmosphere. On the second part, the acoustic guitar plays a series of light arpeggiated chords. Just a duo between guitar and sax, the musicians show an advanced understanding of each others playing, displaying an impressive rhythmic freedom.  

On Liberté, the bass plays a quiet ostinato and the drums bubble underneath on the ride cymbal. Layers of sax and guitar sound swell over the top. This develops into a unison melody between the two, as the rhythm section introduce the harmonic structure of the piece. Kummert & Loueke engage in a conversational improvisation. The synth guitar sound is both modern, with a hint of 80’s nostalgia.  

Le People De L’arc-en-ciel is a short composition. The dancing nature of the melody combined with the mournful acoustic guitar gives the piece a Spanish feel. Returning to an African sound on La Terre Ne Meant Pas, the band incorporate gentle percussion and single lines on the modified guitar.  

A rock influence enters the album on Diversity Over Purity and continues on to We’ll Be Alright where the guitar fills the sound with distorted chords. 

La Diversité is full of compositional riches and textural variety. The willingness of the musicians to adopt a variety of sounds, along with their improvisational prowess makes the album an engaging listen.  

John Marley. 

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