More than a game piece that creates musical situations suggested by the shuffling of playing cards into three-fold suits, Swiss percussionist Lucas Niggli’s refined this eight-track program so that tentet members negate any breach between composition and improvisation. Although different conductors, soloists and backing players are listed for each piece, foreground and background roles aren’t static.
Niggli, whose experience encompasses solo sets, a punk-jazz trio and African percussion experiments, only lightly sprinkles rhythmic strokes and slaps among the tunes from his kit and drummer Peter Conradin Zumthor’s. Instead the tracks’ contours are decided by soloist juxtaposition, as extended technique alters expected sounds. Movement 2 for instance evolves from Marina Tantanozi’s electronically doubled flute puffs and shrills to near opaque vibrating textures from organist Dominik Blum and accordionist Tizia Zimmermann, then reinstates flute peeps mated with squeeze box jerks. The most natural transition between dissonance and delicacy occurs with Movement 4 and Movement 5. Joana Maria Aderi’s voltage-altered vocals paired with percussion clangs cushioned by Marc Unternährer’s tuba ostinato subsequently turns into a brief pastoral flute feature.
While space is also made for aggressive altissimo asides by tenor saxophonist Silke Strah and stentorian slaps from bassist Christian Webber, as well as widely separated rock-like or marching-band-like interludes, the suite’s basic structure remains constant and linear.
Not only does the group Play exceptionally, but it also demonstrates how to play using varied sound elements while preserving a coherent musical perception.