David Helbocks Random/Control: Random/Control: Release Information
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Release Date: 15.10.2010
TT Catalogue No: 4547
It is usually taken for granted that musicians, especially the bold and progressive ones, live in metropolises, but pianist and composer David Helbock is at home in Rheintal, south of Lake Constance. His music has little to do with the idyll of this alpine countryside however. In conversation, Helbock seems calm and thoughtful, suggesting a certain distance to a big city attitude. In his multi-faceted music meanwhile, you immediately notice the urgency in his defiance, defiance of complacency, of being content with the obvious or currently popular. You also can’t help noticing a very healthy sense of humor.
It’s a good nine-hour trip from Vorarlberg to Traumton-Studio in Berlin. The three musicians from Random/Control still waste no time getting down to business; immediately upon arival they set up their equipment and want to get started. An almost irrepressible drive to play is what unites David Helbock, Johannes Bär and Andreas Broger, along with an oft intuitive understanding. This intuition is nothing supernatural, but rather a sensitivity which has matured over a long period of time. Pianist Helbock and brass man Bär went to school together, later meeting up in Peter Madsen‘s „Collective of Improvising Artists“, where reedist Broger was also a member. Broger had, as fate would have it, already played with Bär in other constellations.
Random/Control combines juvenile energy with a determined will to shape and compose, playful creativity with a broad horizon of styles. The trio’s hallmark, among others, is the way they change instruments mid-song at breakneck speed, taking on almost athletic qualities, both on stage and in the studio. „Both of them each play at least five, six instruments or more,“ raves bandleader Helbock, „so an extremely high number of sound combinations is possible, which makes it incredibly fun to play.“ From time to time Helbock is still amazed at the virtuosity of his partners. „The speed with which Johannes Bär changes from the tuba to the piccolo-trumpet while still playing coherently, in perfect time, is quite unique.“
With this, Random/Control is already vaunting an unconventional profile. Analoguous to the pointedly chosen band name, Helbock, Bär and Broger themselves are all about the tension between sophisticated concepts and the impulsive joy of playing - a suspense that the trio is even able to create in the studio, not least through consequent live recordings. „We recorded several versions of the songs and chose the best one afterwards“, is the way Helbock describes the working method, that for the most part, can do without overdubs, and needs no editing whatsoever. „There are too many free passages in the tracks, you couldn’t just cut them out and put them in somewhere else because it wouldn’t fit.“
Jazz’s aspiration for freedom and its flirts with the classical music of Europe have history. David Helbock‘s sources of inspiration are spread all over the world, from Brazil‘s musical master Hermeto Pascoal, to his interest in Buddhism and Far Eastern philosophies. Helbock has his teacher, mentor, and friend, American pianist Peter Madsen, to thank for much of the stimulus to pursue these influences – all the musicians in Random/Control belong to Madsen’s band project CIA (Collective of Improvising Artists). Helbock‘s aesthetics strive for openness as well, playing with contrasts, surprising turns and fanciful improvisations. The twenty-six-year-old musician never takes the easy way out. When he started to write his own personal Real Book with one new composition daily in 2009, he assumed he had 1000 different ideas in his head. But he soon caught himself repeating himself, which only spurred him on. „I started to experiment with more and more instruments to try out other possibilities.“
Once again, David Helbock performed at the largest jazz piano competition for soloists worldwide, during the Montreux Jazz Festival 2010. As in 2007, he was among the finalists; this time he also won the audience award. Thanks to a well-founded classical training, Helbock commands an array of attack techniques, distinguishing him from many of those „pure“ jazz musicians.mSuch technical aspects do play a role for this 26-year-old individualist, especially when they help in the search for unexpected facets in the music.
And there are plenty of those to be found on Random/Control’s debut album. A piano ballad adorned with contemplative poetry reminds you of (imaginary) soundtracks with its kitsch-free romanticism; lyrical passages lure with suggestive, almost chamber music-like associations of trumpet, flugelhorn, bass, clarinet, and piano. Faster pieces flirt with circulating motives or minimalistic echos, playful variations and precipitous dynamics. A seemingly familiar melody is abstracted or briefly deconstructed, rhythmical staccati and fluttering modulations meander through varying tempi. At times Helbock works several electronic effects into his sound tapestries, but they remain subtle.
In every moment of the decidedly varied repertoire you can feel the band’s enthusiasm for their concept: a willful, yet equally balanced and contemporary musical encounter between philosophy and intuition.