Soundbridges quartet was initiated by German drummer Martin Blume immediately after the Covid-19 lockdowns were lifted and American musicians were able to travel and perform in Europe. Blume invited the Chicagoan reeds hero, with whom he performed before two decades ago; German, Vienna-based analog EMS synth wizard Thomas Lehn, who played with Blume in the Speak Easy quartet with vocal artists Phil Minton and Ute Wassermann and played with Vandermark in his iTi project; and young German trombonist Matthias Muche, who played before with Lehn in the James Choice Orchestra. This quartet did a short tour in Germany and recorded its debut album at the Bochum Art Museum during the Ruhr Jazz Festival in September 2021.
The free improvised music is credited to these experienced and gifted musicians. The unique instrumentation, with no bass, opens new sonic and rhythmic options for this energetic quartet. Vandermark acts instantly as a tireless dynamo, pushing the dense commotion forward all the time, and finds immediate affinity with Muche. Lehn and Blume suggest layered, sometimes alien-sounding, restless but highly nuanced rhythmic patterns that trigger Vandermark and Muche to explore their extended breathing techniques.
It does not take long but the quartet already settles on powerful free jazz mode on «Aspect Ratio» with Vandermark taking the lead role, and later even introducing a lyrical, swinging tone. Lehn plays his vintage synth as a twisted, noisy horn, in a similar way to the way that Christoph Kurzmann plays his lloopp software in Vandermark’s Made to Break quartet. The 19-minute «The Thirty-Nine Steps», a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film from 1935, captures best this quartet. Vandermark, Muche, Lehn and Blume weave organically, both individually as articulate soloists and as a close unit, a rich narrative, full of surprising and risk-taking but insightful detours that may launch Hitchcock’s protagonists to outer space, without losing its focus and the quartet’s tight dynamics. Vandermark leads also the following «Arc Shot» together with Blume and their muscular tenor sax-drums duet evokes a like-minded synth-trombone duet but soon all four musicians unite for an extraterrestrial free jazz ballad. The title of the last, short piece «Overlapping Edges» tells beautifully how the sharp, opinionated edges of this quartet built strong and massive bridges. Waiting for the next one of this great quartet.
Ken Vandermark (ts, cl), Mathias Muche (tb), Thomas Lehn (analog synth), Marin Blume (dr, perc)