German guitarist-composer Paul Peuker keeps refining the concept of Third Stream, sixty years after Gunther Schuller described it as a synthesis of modern classical music, free improvised music and modern jazz. Accordingly, Peuker describes his music as influenced by innovative, American sax players Tim Berne or John Zorn, as well as the work of European composers Bela Bartók, Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich.
Peuker’s sophomore album with his octet, Peuker8 (following «Resound», Nabel Records, 2014), a group that began working in 2011, attempts to create a sound of string quartet that plays jazz music with the powerful energy of a rock group or a symphony orchestra. Fusion is born again, but in a totally different incarnation.
The strong, individual voices of Peuker8, its work throughout the years (with only two changes in its personnel, but not in the octet instrumentation), the generous degrees of individual freedom and Peuker own personal voice as a guitarist deny Peuker’s intricate and well-structured compositions from becoming academic exercises. Still, these multifaceted compositions are complex, demanding and often cerebral, never break through into unknown territories or surrender to a burst reckless energy. The careful balance between the jazz-y rhythm section, the string trio, and the main soloists – Peuker himself, sax player Mark Weschenfelder and pianist Clemens Christian Pötzsch, takes its toll.
There are some exceptions, especially when Peuker enforces a challenging, unfamiliar sound or compositional idea to Peuker8 sophisticated, compact language, as his distorted-metallic lines on the ironic «Grind Me Tender» that charge the octet collective interplay with an infectious, powerful pulse. Or when Peuker8 abstract the inherent tension of «Metamorfosi» as a colorful, dramatic narrative. The most touching piece is Peuker solo on the last «Into the Wild White Yonder». It is a simpler and subtler composition than the ones played by the whole Peuker8 but articulates beautifully his unique sound and voice as composer and guitarist.
Paul Peuker (g), Clemens Christian Pötzsch (p), Mark Weschenfelder (s), Alina Gropper (violinquinton), Filip Sommer (violaquinton), Elisabeth Coudoux (c), Eugen Rolnik (b), Florian Lauer (dr), Sissi Rada (v)