Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mission Theater

  • PDXJazz presents

    PDXJazz @ the MissionTheater

    • Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

    6:30 p.m. doors, 7:30 p.m. show

    21 and over

    $15 advance, $15 day of show


Zurich-based composer Nik Bärtsch is touring in celebration of the tenth anniversary of his quintet, Ronin, their new live album, Nik Bärtsch´s Ronin Live (available October 2 on ECM Records). Ronin last performed in Portland on the 2010 Portland Jazz Festival at the Alberta Rose Theater. 

Composer-pianist Bärtsch likens the linked-mind interplay inside his unique group to a school of fish moving across a coral reef with lightning speed. Compositions can evolve strangely, too, he points out. With this in mind Ronin keeps casting its nets in the same ocean, finding forms that defy expectations immediately or manifest their mutations slowly.

The three previous albums from this group have been recorded in-studio. Following extensive touring, Nik Bärtsch and producer Manfred Eicher decided it was time to record the band live, hence this new double-CD which perfectly showcases the band's hypnotic and dynamic performance. Pulsating rhythms, motoric pulses seduce the ear.

"As the band's composer, I precisely set down most of the pieces in notation, but in performance it becomes at some point impossible to tell what is composed, interpreted or improvised. The band has to discover the right tension and the suitable dramatic structure for a piece on the spur of the moment. The band-organism thus outwits not only the composition, but itself."

Over the course of a decade, Ronin has continuously melded influences from funk to Japanese ritual music into a cohesive whole. Bärtsch compares his music to architecture, built on a foundation of interlocking rhythms and guided by repetition and reduction. Intelligent beats and funky rhythms are combined with meditative and stoic layering of patterns to create a compelling listening, and performance, experience.

Aside from their studio work, Ronin has forged itself into a formidable live band through consistent gigging. The group's stage presence is indebted to the group's Monday night concert series, which has taken place weekly in Zurich without interruption since 2004. In these legendary sessions, the quintet fine-tunes bandleader Nik Bärtsch's compositions while enlivening them with an ever-developing interpretation. In the Montags ("Mondays") series integral aspects of Ronin are thoroughly trained: phrasing, instrumentation, sound, light, and dramaturgy.

The results of Ronin's dedication has shown: The Wall Street Journal and AllAboutJazz listed Ronin's concerts in Poisson Rouge in New York City and at the London Jazz Festival alongside Björk, Patti Smith, Feist, Radiohead, and Anna Calvia as the best concerts of 2011. A leading German national daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung, stated that a Ronin concert "is worth recommending to everyone: from music theorists, to the tea-ceremonialists, to the dance-enthusiasts."