Admittedly high and also supersonic
Posted: March 20, 2013
Citing Keith Jarrett and Jason Moran as influences on their music, the Swiss jazz trio will make their debut in Prague March 22.
A month of Swiss culture in Prague culminates at Jazz Dock with the young trio Rusconi. The double bassist Fabian Gisler lives in Basel, the drummer Claudio Strüby lives in Zurich, and the pianist Stefan Rusconi lives in Berlin, though he is from Zurich.
The trio follows in the footsteps of popular contemporary piano-driven groups such as the Brad Mehldau Trio and the Bad Plus and, like these bands, has carved out a unique sound with experimentation, yet with a total reconsideration of jazz. They call their sound "überjazz" and the tag does fit this group perfectly.
Rusconi names earlier jazz pianists including Paul Bley, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett and Jason Moran as very important influences. It is interesting, however, that he doesn't name Mehldau, as some of the songs on the newest recording, last year's Revolution, sound very much like Mehldau's latest with his own trio.
On the other hand, it's also possible that an influence could go the other way around. In other words, maybe Stefan Rusconi has influenced Brad Mehldau's trio, and why not?
When: Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m.
Where: Jazz Dock
Tickets: 190 Kč/115 Kč concessions
"I used to listen to Brad Mehldau a lot, but I wouldn't name him as a big influence," Rusconi says. "But most of the inspiration for the music I do, I get from bands and musicians like Sonic Youth, Flying Lotus, Bon Iver, Mats Gustafsson, Fred Frith, James Blake, Matthew Herbert, Talk Talk and more."
It's a Sonic Life, released in 2010 by Sony, was influenced solely by the music of Sonic Youth; Rusconi claims this group has been the soundtrack of his life. The group reinterprets Rusconi's favorite Sonic Youth songs, including "The Destroyed Room," "Karen Revisited," "Sunday," "Theresa's Sound World," and "Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg)."
Incorporating effects for the first time and different sound patterns, this album also has original songs written by Rusconi but based on Sonic Youth lyrics. As in the songs of Sonic Youth, these are based on strong melodies yet with room to improvise within that context - songs they then "modulate, destroy and enlarge." As Rusconi has said, this is to show what jazz music can sound like in our times.
An even earlier album was the trio's biggest hit in Switzerland. One Up Down Left Right (2008) has a song of the same name with the unavoidable stamp of Mehldau's trio, as a stubborn, yet melodic march or stomp across a hilly meadow in the Alps filled with hidden holes, as well as shrubs slowly dropping from the sky. There was an award-winning video-film made for this one with the trio looking like Lego figures in a factory each in yellow hard-hats on their own rising and falling yellow hydraulic lifts.
The first major release, 2006's Stop and Go, was also on Sony, but, for the most recent release, the group has gone independent, providing the recording as a free download. It is a practical gesture of the times, facing reality, as they state on their manifesto on their website.
"The digital reproducibility and dissemination via the Internet know no boundaries," the note reads. "The concept of ownership thus becomes invalidated and any pricing equivocal. We accept that. But … if you would like for us to continue our musical and creative output, we need your commitment … spread our music."
Rusconi's own label, Qilin Records, presses vinyl editions and its French partner, BEEJAZZ, releases the CDs. So far, the strategy is working. "By doing it our own way, we did earn more money this year, and most importantly, we got closer to our fans and know more about them, as well as they know more about us. We have experienced that people are still willing to pay for good music," he says.
One standout track on Revolution, "Alice in the Sky," features the avant-garde rock guitarist Fred Frith, and this one recalls the cover of Sonic Youth's "Hits of Sunshine," which is after all drug slang for taking tabs of LSD. The live version of this song is another standout as the closer on Revolution.
"Whenever we play it, I get really high," Rusconi says. "It's tripping and psychedelic like the other newer tune of ours, 'Alice in the Sky'," he says, "a real audio acoustic journey into our mind and body."
This will be the group's debut in Prague and, from Rusconi's perspective, another type of journey into the unknown.
"I have never been to Prague, and I really look forward to that night and the morning after - if I can get up early enough to go and check out the city," Rusconi says. "I'm also curious about the audience and how they will react to our music. For me, a concert is always a big adventure that gets even more exciting in front of a totally new crowd."
Tony Ozuna can be reached at