Bojan Zulfikarpasic & Tetraband
Recorded April 1, 2, 3 2008 at Studio de Meudon, France
Humus is the first album from the Bojan Z Tetraband and it's as intriguing as might be expected from such an original and inspired set of musicians. Led by keyboard player Bojan Zulfikarpasic-born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia and now resident in France-the band is tight, energetic and powerful despite the fact that the lineup only came together a few months before the April 2008 recording session. The album has been described by Z as "the most 'rock' album I could record" and by its accompanying press release as "a kind of punk jazz-funk," but neither description does justice to the album's range of styles, rhythms and tones.
At Tetraband's core is one of the most creative of rhythm sections-Seb Rochford on drums and Ruth Goller on bass. Out front, Z's keyboards interlink with the trombone of Josh Roseman: it's an unusual but stunningly effective quartet frontline. In many ways Roseman's trombone defines the album. Z's compositions give as much time to the horn as they do to the keyboards and Roseman's distinctive, rough-edged tone is crucial to Tetraband's sound.
Z is a stylish keyboard player, whether on the Fazioli piano, Fender Rhodes or Xenophone-an instrument of his own design, fashioned from parts of discarded electric pianos. On tracks such as "Greedy (in goods we trust)" he overdubs keyboard parts to create an at times overly-dense sound. The freshest and most effective tunes are those on which Z resists the temptation to add too many layers-"No 9," which features some fine interplay between Z and Roseman, and the slightly angular and gentle solo piece "Focus@" for example.
Rochford and Roseman gain one writing credit each. Rochford's contribution, "Empty Shell," sits comfortably with Z's own compositions-it's a fine group performance that moves from its funky drum and trombone intro to a more reflective and languid middle section before finishing in a flurry of drums and electronics over Goller's bass guitar pulse. Roseman's "Swamp Tune" is recognizably different from the rest of the album. Rochford and Goller keep up a solid, prowling, rhythm throughout while Z and Roseman layer keyboard and trombone sounds over the top, evoking the nocturnal activity of the city more than that of the swamp.
Humus closes with "Thirst Day," a tune that showcases the talents of all four players and sets Goller's bass playing at centre stage. It emphasizes just how individual and distinctive these musicians are-and how well they come together to create this fine band and this excellent debut album.
- Bruce Lindsay, Published: December 23, 2009
The rocket fuelled, electro-acoustic Tetraband quartet began life as a trio pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic formed with drummer Sebastian Rochford and electric bassist Ruth Goller in 2007. Paris-based Z grew up in what was then Yugoslavia, and the Balkans' dance rhythms have long been a feature of his playing. On tour in Europe, Rochford and Goller, both members of British punk-jazz iconoclast Acoustic Ladyland, brought a heat and groove to the music which perfectly matched Z's passionate double-fisted style.
With the addition of New York-based trombonist Josh Roseman, the trio became Tetraband and recorded Humus in France over three days-Z uses a lot of layered keyboards-in April 2008.
Z says Humus is "the most 'rock' album I could record." While the music mostly avoids the reiterative rhythms and licks of rock, being instead in a near constant state of transformation, it does indeed share rock's structural simplicity and high-voltage. Driven forward by Goller's bass and Rochford's full-on stick assaults-one of the incidental joys of Humus is hearing the famously nuanced, not to say whimsical, drummer get down and dirty and stay there-Z and Roseman fire off extended passages of steaming urgency practically throughout. Briefer, more peaceful sections lower the temperature from time to time.
Despite the time and care which went into the recording-Roseman added trombone arrangements to his basic tracks in New York in December 2008-the album has a powerful live feel. Z's overdubbing must, however, have been extensive; while he frequently doubles up on acoustic and electric keyboards in performance, the degree of layering on Humus suggest a fair amount of post-production.
Z's acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes are backgrounded by the striking textures he creates on Fazioli and his own invention, the xenophone, a concoction of parts from various electric keyboards. Although their aesthetics are dissimilar, Z's imaginative overlays bring to mind those of the American multi-keyboardist Marco Benevento, with Z taking the dark side and Benevento the playful.
Highlights include the Acoustic Ladyland-ish head charge "Greedy (in goods we trust)," the wild Balkan mutation "Fuzzlija," and the bittersweet "Autumn Song," the closest the album gets to a ballad. But there isn't a moment that isn't magic. An outstanding, wildly exhilarating album.
- Chris May, Published: December 13, 2009