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Flowers of Now: "Intuitive Music in Cologne"

img  Tobias

Quite a lot of people seem to believe that everyone can play Free Jazz. From the perspective of an outsider, it doesn't appear to take all that much to make it happen: Just grab yourself an instrument, enter the stage with a couple of friends and hit it off together, as you're galloping carelessly through the lands of unpremeditated harmonies and random melodic development. In reality, however, there is no harder thing than truly detaching yourself from structure. Without fail, all groups, musical ones included, organise themselves - regardless of whether members are verbally voicing their strategies or intentions prior to their interaction or communicating through subtle tactile means. Well aware of this phenomenon, Flowers of Now have decided to forgo the idea of complete freedom in improvisation and replaced it with an equally intriguing aim: Making the process of gradual rapprochement transparent and turning it into the focal point of their musical exchanges.

Recorded live in concert at Cologne's Musiknacht – an annual one-night festival with a plethora of concerts predominantly from the realms of Jazz and Classical Music taking place in sync with each other – the encounter between these five musicians is all about closing in and letting go. Welling up from silence and embracing the most subtle sounds imaginable, the ensemble enters a dance of combinations. Duos and Triads are formed, each of them establishing idiosyncratic rules of engagement and musical modes over the course of scenes ranging from a passing encounter to epic stretches of almost ten minutes, before disentangling themselves from each other in search of new thematic partners. Motives are coming to fruition before blooming with richly scented perfumes and fading away again. Initially unconnected tones unexpectedly coalesce into patterns, which are then varied, delicately transformed and dissected into new entities. Pure, acoustic wind timbres are gently blended with the electrically amplified colours of Luca Formentini's Guitar and Markus Stockhausen's Trumpet. And just when you though the music would continue in its serene and silent way forever, one of the players adds his voice to the equation, billowing the sails of the ensemble with quietly anthemic rigour.

„Intuitive Music live in Cologne“ is a work of tender movements, feminine contours and hushed sensitivity. There is a lot of space in these pieces, all of which are connected by a sustained collective breath. In fact, space turns into a compositional element, as the ensemble play with reverb and echo to create passages of supple elegance. Like a freshly-in-love couple dancing the Tango in complete darkness at the edge of an abyss, it progresses from one sonic room to the next without causing any palpable breaks in continuity. There is a fragile mystery in the air, which all involved are careful not to hurt. The idea of Free Jazz as a genre, a category, a label, an image, an idea even is gently mocked by the tenderness on display by a cast of musicians without any ambitions of outshining their partners. And yet, this music is as "free" as it could possibly be.

The idea of chambermusic as a mode of communication among equals and friends in an intimate setting is taken to a level where discreet gestures are capable of sending shockwaves through an ocean of light. The group effort is so vitally important here, in fact, that none of the artists takes center stage for too long to uphold the equilibrium of communal progressions.  As if continually handing over the torch to their partners, they are merely adding a spark to the action, before retreating again into concentrated silence. Only Stockhausen's goldenly shimmering silken tone sometimes hovers above the foundation laid down by the rest of the group, floating above the music like a spirit observing the action in astral trance. The liquid-like state of the musical structure here only serves to increase the artistic tension of this bouquet of lyrical tone poems: One would imagine the audience at the gig to be holding their breath and keeping their position, however uncomfortable it may have been.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Luca Formentini
Homepage: Markus Stockhausen

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