An album like Lualuna Tai, the four song EP composed by drummer Arthur Hnatek (who has backed the likes of Tigran Hamasyan, Erik Truffaz, and Dhafer Youssef) and performed with the DKSJ All Stars, could easily be described as ethereal. It has a sound that emerges from some fuzziness, finding form and structure and maybe a few tumbles of chaos for even measure. It’s an album that reminds one of the amazingness of music, that these objects — skins on tins, warped metal tubes, wooden cases with strings stretched taut across — when used as tools can bend the air, and that gifted people with like mind can change time. Each of these songs have a simple energy that lavishes in its growth.
It’s a large ensemble album that crosses into a New Age territory. The word ethereal has already come up, so “spacey” should “airy” come up as well. Very apt words to describe this sound that finds grooves in the longest measures or stumbles onto beats like discovered paths in the woods. Two-part centerpiece “Hendécagone” has the spirit of a Wayne Shorter composition, in its playfulness and its patience while keeping the reins of so many elements. Saxophonists Tapiwa Svosve and Benjamin Knecht are superb, expressive but not too flashy. Yumi Ito is just as ear-catching on the glockenspiel as she is as a vocalist on the first and last songs of the EP, “*City* Without You – Palindrome” and “Song for the Unsung Language – Poem by Luisa Famos”. As a singer, her voice floats above it all, but her glockenspiel sweetly seems to call everything together. They’re a fascinating pair of talents to contribute to the ensemble.
However, it’s Hnatek who undoubtedly impresses here with this collection of songs composed for this group. They’re a group with range and vitality with a grasp of jazz that doesn’t quite go down the usual corners, though neither does Hnatek. Hearing him drum alongside this group, playing as if he’s telling a story the rest of the group is acting out, just feels right. They’re certainly a group that should be worth a half hour of your time, if not repeated listens, particularly at the price of a free download.
Lualuna Tai – With DKSJ, the four-song EP from drummer/composer Arthur Hnatek, is out now and available for free download from Hnatek’s Bandcamp.
Yumi Ito, voice/glockenspiel
Tapiwa Svosve, alto sax and electronics
Benjamin Knecht, tenor sax and clarinet
Nicola Habegger, trumpet
Lukas Reinert, trombone
Victor Darmon, violin
Jonathan Salvi, vibraphone
Sebastian Bättig, guitar
James Krütli, bass
Andrew Audiger, piano
Arthur Hnatek, drums
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.