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The free improvising quartet Gravelshard was formed in 2022 by American, Hamburg-based double bass player John Hughes and features his close collaborator, German, Berlin-based guitarist Olaf Rupp (they recorded Plursathn, Audiosemantics, 2020) and and another duo of Portuguese trumpeter Luís Vicente Vicente and Catalan drummer-percussionist Vasco Trilla (their latest duo album is Made of Mist, 577, 2021, but they collaborated on many other outfits). Gravelshard has toured and played numerous concerts in Germany and Holland in 2022 and 2023 and the self-titled album is its debut one.

This quartet offers four distinct sonic languages and improvisation strategies in a way that can interact and complement or antagonize each other. The four musicians constantly realign and reconfigure to shift the aural perception of linearity, fore- and background, and never stagnating or resolving the tension of the moment, and, obviously, all are employing an array of personal extended bowing, breathing and percussive techniques. Rupp’s organically flowing thematic developments arise neither by chance nor by dominant will; Vicente’s breadth and warmth of his sound mirror the ocean; Trilla’s versatile and cinematic approach to his extended percussion is evident in the music of Gravelshard; and Hughes’ massive sound and boundless creativity inspire his bandmates and captivate the audience every time he takes the bandstand.

The music of Gravelshard corresponds with the cover artwork by Cristina Marx. The rocks, whether they are small and relatively uniform in shape and size, or fragments of larger rocks, symbolize unstructured and mysterious ensemble interplay, or an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of enigmatic textures and fragmented melodic shrapnel. These sonic tapestries are woven into another dimension of time and space, yet demand deep listening and great patience, as their arresting, new ideas are repelled, acknowledged, or obliterated in a methodical slow-cooking mode. Four gifted, bold and always inventive improvisers at the top of their game. Simply masterful.

Eyal Hareuveni

Luís Vicente (trumpet), Vasco Trilla (drums), Olaf Rupp (electric guitar), John Hughes (double bass)