Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019



NeWt 2 featuring Silke Eberhard


by Ian Mann

October 31, 2010


One of the year's most interesting and distinctive releases.


“NeWt 2 featuring Silke Eberhard”

(F-ire Presents F-IRE CD 33)

The F-ire Collective and its F-ire Presents offshoot has previously only concerned itself with London based musicians. However this album sees them widening their sights and presenting an opportunity to the Scottish based trio NeWt plus their guest, German alto saxophonist/clarinettist Silke Eberhard.

Australian born trombonist Chris Greive, Canadian drummer Chris Wallace and Scottish guitarist Graeme Stephen are leading figures on the fertile Scottish scene. Greive is a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Haftor Medboe Group, Stephen leads his own sextet and Wallace heads the band Loose Grip whose début album “Looking Glass” was recently reviewed elsewhere on this site. NeWt’s début album is currently available as a download from the Scottish label Fabrikant.

Berlin based saxophonist Eberhard has worked with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, saxophonist Dave Liebman and trombonist Slide Hampton among others. She also leads her own trio with bassist Jan Roder and drummer Kay Lubke recording the album “Being” for the Jazzwerkstett label in 2008. She performs in a duo with pianist Aki Takase and as part of the all horn group Potsa Lotsa. A gifted improviser she was won numerous awards in her native Germany.

Eberhard adds much to the existing NeWt group sound. The new quartet boasts an unusual bass-less line-up and the emphasis is very much on mood and texture and the blurring of musical boundaries. The judicious use of electronic effects is a further feature of the band sound on an all original programme written by the core members of the NeWt trio.

The album commences with Greive’s “Charmed” which features Eberhard on clarinet, her warmth and lightness of tone a good contrast to the lumbering grace of Greive’s trombone. The piece ranges through a variety of moods and styles in its six minute plus duration. There is a high degree of flexibility and group interaction with Eberhard the first soloist, her feature including an impressive unaccompanied section. Towards the end of the piece Stephen takes flight with a feverish rock influenced, effects laden solo. Its an intriguing opener that keeps both band and listener on their toes.

Wallace’s “Cydonia 19.5” begins with spooky guitar effects and breathy vocalised trombone from the Albert Mangelsdorff/Paul Rutherford school and builds from there, with melody slowly emerging from the early abstraction. Eventually the group hit something of a groove and there’s a more orthodox solo from Grieve, his big toned trombone again contrasting nicely with Eberhard’s lithe, slippery alto sax. Stephen’s guitar brings an element of rock heaviness as the tune continues to develop and evolve with Wallace anchoring it altogether with his firm, deft and imaginative drumming.

Stephen’s “Steinag” opens with a blistering salvo of guitar and the piece then embarks on a series of twists and turns including some fiendishly tricky riffs and unison passages. Its the most rock orientated piece thus far and may appeal to fans of bands like trio VD.

Greive’s “Grrove” shows the more sensitive side of the band with delicate, almost chamber like passages rubbing shoulders with grittier, probing, improvised passages. Like most of the pieces on this album the tune is constantly evolving and covers an impressively broad range.
The same could be said for Wallace’s “Army Of One” which mixes an opening Grieve/Eberhard duet with abstraction, long melody lines over chunky odd meter riffs and grooves and more. Again its the range of sounds and moods covered that impresses along with the level of teamwork.

Stephen’s “Stob Dearg” (meaning “Red Peak” and named after a Scottish Munro)  begins in an appropriately pastoral manner before a jaunty groove and tune emerge underpinned by Grieve’s trombone vamp and Wallace’s nimble drumming. There’s some delightful interplay between the trombone and Eberhard’s alto on this joyous celebration of Scotland’s natural beauty.

Wallace’s “Out Of The Box” skilfully blends written and improvised sections one of which contains an abstract dialogue between Grieve and Eberhard with Stephen providing an electronic backdrop. Later Stephen solos more conventionally on a typically kaleidoscopic piece of NeWt music. 

Stephen’s “Falling Too” combines the guitarist’s rock influenced writing style with elements of electronica. Eberhard’s soaring alto solo is one of her most powerful of the set and there’s some excellent ensemble playing from the band as a whole.

The title of the closing item “A Safe, Just and Tolerant Society” seems strangely prescient and topical in view of recent political events. Wallace’s tune begins quietly but expands to feature some of the most joyous playing of the set with self consciously “swinging” sections alternating with more impressionistic improv episodes. Greive’s romping trombone solo is particularly impressive. 

I like to think of this album as being like a rather fine Scotch whisky.  The raw materials may be drawn from different sources but the end product has been skilfully matured and blended in Scotland. Like Scotch it may not be to everybody’s taste but there’s much here for the discerning listener to enjoy. With its skilful blending of acoustic and electric instruments, composition and improvisation,  the album is a challenging but not wilfully difficult listening experience. Like a good Scotch there’s plenty of bite and flavour but plenty of subtlety too. Fear not, the NeWt sound isn’t that of firewater or musical paint stripper.

The writing by the three home based players is consistently interesting and the playing always excellent with a high degree of group interaction. Eberhard makes an outstanding contribution and integrates superbly with NeWt’s core musicians establishing a particularly strong rapport with trombonist Greive. She’s clearly an excellent technician and immediately sounds thoroughly at home as a member of the quartet. These qualities plus the unusual instrumental line up add up to one of the year’s most interesting and distinctive releases. 

blog comments powered by Disqus