The Austrian septet Shake Stew has perfected a highly effective recipe. Take some hypnotic West-African polyrhythmic patterns, spice and mix these rhythms into clever jazz grooves, color all with strong personal voices and wrap it with engaging elegance and positive energy. This recipe worked well on Shake Stew debut album, «The Golden Fang» (Traumton, 2016). It works even better on the more compact and focused «Rise and Rise Again».
The ingredients of Shake Stew recipe are still unique. The percolating rhythms are layered by leader-composer-bass player Lukas Kranzelbinder and second bass player Manu Mayr, both alternating between double basses and electric basses and Kranzelbinder also plays the Gnawaa string-instrument, guembri. The two drummers-percussionists, Niki Dolp and Matthias Koch (who replaced Herbert Pinker who played on the debut album), deepens and color this suggestive, rhythmic vibe. The front line of alto sax player Clemens Salesny, tenor sax player Johannes Schleiermacher and trumpeter Mario Rom, augmented by British tenor sax player Shabaka Hutchings on two pieces, correspond with the expanded rhythm section as a call-and-answer choir, solidifying the spicy, rhythmic blend with imaginative senses of melody and lyricism.
But Shake Stew does not stick to one version of this recipe. Each of the six compositions of «Rise and Rise Again» offers new tastes and distinct moods. The opening piece, «Dancing in the Cage of a Soul», introduces Shake Stew personal voices and celebrates its driving interplay with a spirited solo of tenor sax player Schleiermacher. «How We See Things», with Hutchings, dives deep into an intoxicating African vibe, where the two double basses set a strong, repetitive pattern, mimicking the cyclical patterns of the African harp, kora, and answered gently by the choir of the three sax players, and a beautiful, lyrical solo of trumpeter Rom. «Goodbye Johnny Staccato», after the cult TV series of a detective-jazz pianist played by John Cassavetes, adopts a dramatic narrative, full of sudden, playful shifts and ideas that sound as drawn from old Italian movies. This piece allows Schleiermacher to lead Shake Stew with a solo that moves organically from the fiery to the most sentimental and touching. «Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight» changes again the atmosphere and focuses on the contemplative, conversational dynamic between the two double bass players and trumpeter Rom. Hutchings charges «Get Up Eight» with a powerful, gospel-like energy, and his solo interlocks perfectly with the two basses. The last «No Sleep My King?» offers a mysterious, Gnawa-like trance atmosphere, stressed by repetitive bass lines, with a meditative solo of alto sax player Salesny that let us all to reflect on the appetizing stew of this promising group.
Lukas Kranzelbinder (b, guembri), Clemens Salesny (as, crackle box, fl), Johannes Schleiermacher (ts, fl), Mario Rom (tp, fl), Manuel Mayr (b), Niki Dolp (dr, perc), Matthias Koch (dr, perc), Shabaka Hutchings (ts)