Conversation #11 & #12: ON! (ENG review)

by Florian Arbenz, Yumi Ito, Percy Pursglove, Ivo Neame, Szymon Mika, Jim Hart // Hammer Recordings – Street date March 15th 2024
Jazz moderne
Florian Arbenz

Although it’s an excellent album, you won’t hear it on Bayou Blue Radio. Its style, too “rock”-oriented, makes it incompatible with our programming. From our perspective, it’s more of a live music experience than something to be listened to on an album. Indeed, deep within this album, in its most profound depths, lies a vocal dramaturgy that serves as the guiding line for the entire work. Florian Arbenz is not a musician content with staying still, as evidenced by his ambitious plan to record twelve albums with twelve radically different ensembles. The last two installments of his “Conversation” series, “ON!”, feature a pervasive drum presence and an electric guitar, only softened by vocal parts. It must be admitted that without the spectacle in front of you, this album is difficult to follow, even though the exemplary playing of the musicians is well-presented, albeit sometimes a bit too “free jazz,” perhaps forgetting that ultimately an audience must be there, a question that wouldn’t arise when seeing these works live on stage.
The aesthetics in this work are of little importance; only the message produced by the instruments and all the contributors seems to want to take shape. Even being seasoned to this kind of musical show, one comes out exhausted by the third track, because once again, the stage is missing. Seeing, hearing, sharing, in the recorded format loses the main thing: the feelings, the emotions that this kind of music provides live.
With a formation of six highly respected musicians based in Basel and London, through this recording, Arbenz sought to explore his deeply rooted affection for percussion, inspired by Afro-Cuban rhythms, American modernist composer Charles Ives, and the avant-garde sound of the 1970s Art Ensemble of Chicago. Referencing a wide range of forms and styles, including blues/funk, contemporary jazz, ambient music, and free jazz, what unites the album is a profound sense of unbridled creative expression. From that perspective, the project is perfectly successful and therefore appeals to an audience of connoisseurs. It will be entirely hermetic to a jazz audience, even one accustomed to polished sounds, as the abruptness of the drums and electric guitar prohibits access to more delicate ears.
What I most appreciated on this album is the vocal work produced by singer Yumi Ito, who regularly performs worldwide and has shared the stage with Al Jarreau, Becca Stevens, Nils Petter Molvaer, and Mark Turner, to name just a few. It’s a good album, but one might reproach its somewhat overly creative aspect, which will confine it to a niche of genre enthusiasts.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 13th 2024


To buy the album 


1.Prologue & Speech
3.Charles’ River
4.Yemayà is visiting Club 64
7.Dreaming Music
8.Freedom Jazz Dance
10.Winter Still

Yumi Ito: voice
Percy Pursglove: trumpet , flugelhorn
Ivo Neame: fender rhodes , synths
Szymon Mika: guitar
Jim Hart: vibraphon, marimbaphon, glockenspiel, percussion
Florian Arbenz: drums, percussion