German trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and German pianist Stevko Busch with Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari and Dutch altoist Paul van Kemenade
All About Jazz (USA)
Fugara (DNL, 2012)—recorded at a December, 2011 Bimhuis performance—is the debut from a new group of names ranging from well-known to deserving of greater recognition. Alto saxophonist Paul van Kemenade will be, perhaps, familiar to ECM fans who have 1989’s Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, conducted by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari will also be known to fans of the German label for Kuára: Psalms and Folk Songs (ECM), a recording that, with pianist Samuli Mikkonen and Norwegian trumpeter/singer Per Jørgensen, was one of 2010’s best recordings. Trumpeter Markus Stockhausen, son of classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and a composer in his own right, will also be known to ECM followers for his late ’80s group Aparis, as well as Karta (ECM, 2000), an outstanding record with bassist Arild Andersen and percussionist Patrice Héral, and featuring guest guitarist Terje Rypdal; that same trio would continue to record with guitarist Ferenc Snetberger, last heard on Joyosa (Enja, 2004), and with pianist Vladislav Sendecki on the two-disc live set, Electric Treasures (Aktivarium, 2008).
Pianist Stevko Busch was the least-known of the bunch, but acted as prime motivator behind the project’s formation, also producing the recording. Together with van Kemenade, Busch released the duo recording Contemplation: On Songs, Russian Chants, Miniatures (DNL, 2010), the conceptual precursor to Fugara, with its emphasis on Russian chants. Busch recently wrote, “My goal is to dive into ‘European roots,’ so to speak, which brought me to Russian chants, and there are more doors. With Fugara I’m able to walk through some of them.”
The addition of Stockhausen and Ounaskari allowed the quartet to demonstrate a moving ability to respect its spiritual sources while, at the same, time expanding upon its foundations. Choosing material from the recording (largely originals from Busch, Stockhausen and Kemenade, with one group composition/improv and a cover of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Mountain”), the quartet opened with the trumpeter’s melancholic “Mondtraum,” with Ounaskari’s textural approach and Busch’s arpeggiations creating a context for Kemenade and Stockhausen’s flowing, interweaving lines—both scored and improvised.
Busch’s “Cheruvimi” was an understated highlight of the set, a delicate tone poem that was largely a duo with the finessed Ounaskari, as the pianist quietly whistled its soft melody. There’s a lot about Fugara that could make it an appropriate act for ECM; whether or not that happens with the quartet’s subsequent work, its sublime set at DJ&WM 2012 suggested plenty of potential yet to be tapped. (John Kelman)
For those who are familiar with the duet album CONTEMPLATION (DNL2010) by Busch and van Kemenade, this album to a large extent seems to be a development of that project of two years ago. Busch’s unique compositions in Contemplation, written based on Orthodox spiritual music appear again in Fugara. Only this time they will sound different! Performed by the quartet, they shine with new colours. Van Kemenade’s “Picking Cranberries”, most closely meets the concept of contemporary jazz improvisation in its European version. All four musicians here have played excellently, but in particular this piece gave most of all opportunities to demonstrate the skill of Ounaskari, who has shown himself a worthy successor to the tradition of quiet drummer Edward Vesala, the best-known representative of Finland’s avant-garde jazz.
…you simply must add to your collection this new, profound and multi-faceted work. (Leonid Auskern)
Jazznyt nr. 5: 2012 (Norway)
The music resides in the modern, European, acoustic landscape, with Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet (not unlike Kenny Wheeler on a good day or Tomasz Stanko) as the central pillar. The music is sometimes powerful, all soloists deliver fine contributions, especially Kemenade and Stockhausen, and the concert at the stylish Bimhuis club in Amsterdam on 3 December last year must have been a great experience for the audience. Kemenade’s alto sax has a slightly sharp tone that perfectly fits within this landscape. Stockhausen plays with great confidence, Busch holds it all together wonderfully, even if he does not show himself off with a lot of solos, and Ounaskari is exactly where he should be — allways in time. Never too little, never too much. “Fugara” has become a fine testament from four musicians who should continue to collaborate for a long time. (Jan Granlie)
‘Fugara’ is spot on. The album is the epitome of spirituality and the search for new roads, and culminates in a symbiosis of Western, Russian Orthodox and Eastern music styles. And quite in simplicity. The overarching element is the choice of highly melodious underlying themes that form the basis for precious improvisations. In each of the seven sets, Stevko Busch takes a modest but firm lead. Paul van Kemenade’s sound is mellow and convincing, sensitive and enticing at the same time. On this album he shows very convincingly that he has embarked on a new period in his development as a jazz musician. Reverting to the lyricism of his early years, he has absorbed all of his later developments in an utterly natural way into his current sound. Goose-pimple music!
‘Fugara’ is a monumental recording. All four musicians share responsible for this result. Stevko Busch with his regal approach to playing; Paul van Kemenade by making full use of what he’s best at — moving lyrics; Markus Stockhausen with his play so soaked in beauty and his broad range of improvisation techniques and Markku Ounaskari, from Finland, with his rhythmic and melodious approach to percussion beats.( Rinus van der Heijden)
Written in Music
Stevko Busch – Fugara ****
We already know that Stevko Busch is an extraordinary pianist …who ranks among the most important names in Dutch jazz. For his new album, ‘Fugara’, Busch resumes once again his collaboration with van Kemenade. On their album ‘Contemplation’, Van Kemenade and Busch already demonstrated that they have a very special musical bond, and their new album ‘Fugara’ takes up and continues this excellent artistic cooperation. Their sparkling compositions, at times with classical structures, establish a very fine and subtle bridge between the Eastern and Western world of sound and soar once again to new musical heights. Whether it’s the somewhat more subdued, majestic play of Busch or the exuberance of van Kemenade – their virtuosity impresses and captures the audience. There is nothing predictable about the play of these two artists. And the same is true of the tremendous performances of Markus Stockhausen (trumpet, fl elhorn) and Markku Ounaskari (drums) who accompany them on ‘Fugara’. The outcome of this collaboration, ‘Fugara’ is an extremely exciting album. (Dick Hovenga)
Beautifully serene melodies that are brilliant in their simplicity. Pianist Stevko Busch enjoys scouting out the borderline between classical music and jazz.Wind players Paul van Kemenade (alto saxophone) and Markus Stockhausen (trumpet) perform really great in tandem. Especially the former works magic on the emotions with his long wind. From time to time, there’s an exuberant climax, but mostly the music is pure and peaceful. His very clear and precise articulation makes Busch a very special pianist. You can always hear his slightly romantic touch glimmering through, but mostly he creates space for his fellow musicians. (Tim Sprangers)