05.08.2013 / The New York City Jazz Record
SHARP - GIBBS - NIGGLI
the secret weapon
The exceptional Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli proves the secret weapon here. He’s inventive and rock solid at the same time, giving
the tunes a strong underpinning while never relaxing into rote rhythms. The drummer is, however, a fan of steady (if shifting) time, which works well with Gibbs’ deep, funk-based foundation.
It’s always a pleasure to hear Elliott Sharp kick back with his guitar. His more formal compositions are fascinatingly prickly and intellectually challenging, but in his heart there (also) lies a blues man and a Jimi Hendrix fan who wants to play like fire and make it sound like melted butter. Crossing the Waters finds him in trio with another longtime downtown player, bassist Melvin Gibbs, along with the exceptional Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli. And while the disc smacks of old school downtown jams, Niggli proves the secret weapon here. He’s inventive and rock solid at the same time, giving the tunes a strong underpinning while never relaxing into rote rhythms. The drummer is, however, a fan of steady (if shifting) time, which works well with Gibbs’ deep, funk-based foundation. The three first played together during Intakt Records’ two-week run at The Stone in March 2012 and went into the studio the next day to lay down the tracks heard here. The disc opens with what might be a bowed guitar sounding like a fiddle being sawed away at and an offbeat rhythm before upshifting into soaring lines like an electrified kite battle. “Flow Fever” is a more pointillistic, noncentered excursion while “Waving High” revolves around Sharp’s familiar fast harmonics and overtones. The album’s high point comes five tracks in, with the dizzying six-and-a-quarter minutes of “Transatlantic Tunnel”. Niggli plays like an overworked motor here with the guitars jabbing about before Sharp takes a surprising turn for pure tonality and flies above the ruckus. From there on the music proceeds with a tangible swapping of ideas, each seeming absolutely on their toes for what might happen next. As if they’d found their footing, the following “Kayak” is the longest and most cohesive cut on the album. A sparse bit of Morriconia, given the title “Forellen”, makes for a lovely closer. In these days when one-off meetings are recorded and readily available (by the artists’ choice or not) on any number of websites, it’s easy to pass them by. But when three musicians meet in the moment and synch so strongly, it’s worth taking notice.