Wireless Wings - For Joe
In A Silent Way
Volcano For Hire
Radio String Quartet Vienna: Bernie Mallinger and Igmar Jenner (violins): Cynthia Liao (viola): Asja Valcic (cello)
Recorded live, except Troposhere [54:37]
Despite the fact that I'm working strictly from a review copy, and thus without notes of any kind, there's more than enough vitality and energy on show - and sheer skill - to ensure that this latest release from Radio String Quartet Vienna goes somewhere near the top of the pile of my recent Jazz review releases.
How this quartet manages both to inhabit - but also to retain independence from - Joe Zawinul's music (all but three of the ten tracks are his compositions) is one of the joys of the disc. You'd think it would impossible to do: to evoke but also distil Weather Report through the string quartet medium. Too arty by half and too irredeemably Viennese? No. What we have here is, instead, a minor triumph of transformation.
Apart from the first track, which is a studio cut, with overdubbing and a certain production heavy vibe, the rest of the performances are culled from unidentified and undated live European performances. The warm ambience suits the performances in concert, where the cello's adoption of bass pizzicati and hints of incipient hoe down bring great life to the iconic Birdland. Full string textures with soloistic windows and juddering unisons bring life to Wayne Shorter's Freezing Fire. They swing through Peace using fine pointing and lyricism to the fore - perhaps the notes explain what sound like ancillary percussive sound textures.
The word swing is the operative one here. This is a really engaged, engaging and swinging collection of performances. They riff strongly on Black Market and purvey dramatic tremolandi in the slow and intense workout they give to Dream Clock. The rocky vibe of Asja Valcic's piece Wireless Wings - For Joe is clearly non-valedictory; rather it's celebratory. The strings sound as intensely vibrated as anywhere in the set, skittering and digging deep, and with incendiary warmth finding almost folkloric drama. In A Silent Way, that iconic Zawinul piece, is reflectively but deftly pointed. Rhythmic brio and then slowing lyricism are hallmarks of Volcano for Hire.
The live tracks are greeted by admiring and prolonged applause, and rightly so. This group really has gone from strength to strength recently and at a time when my review CD in-box teems with academic discourses and soul-free statements, it's good to be reminded how much communicative generosity can be encountered in performances such as this.