Ron Anderson's PAK - Secret Curve

11 songs
46:17 minutes
***** *****


It’s been six years since the last regular album (Motel) by PAK, the jazz trio led by Ron Anderson. In the meantime, the New York based mastermind has been anything but idle, and despite the departure of bass god Jesse Krakow, there is no reason not to look forward to this newest endeavour by this incredible band. The line-up change made Anderson switch from his main instrument guitar to the bass guitar, allowing Secret Curve to make it over the rounds without any six string extravaganza. Keith Abrams (Time Of Orchids, Kayo Dot) is still the drummer. Newest recruit is Tim Byrnes (Friendly Bears, Candiria) who next to his trumpet also plays this time French horn and keyboards. This core band is joined by many guest who provide piano (Anthony Coleman, Eve Risser), violin (Tom Swafford), assorted wood winds (Stefan Zeniuk) and electronics / tape manipulation (Jérôme Noetinger).

Ron Anderson has collaborated in the past already with a lot of standout avant-garde artists like Ruins, Elliott Sharp, Sun City Girls and Otomo Yoshihide, just to name a few. These decades of experience definitely show on Secret Curve, his probably most extreme and best album to date. Main focus lies on the interplay between the bass guitar and the drums, a furious cocktail of freewheeling rhythm work making it unscathed through the most crazy time signatures a composer can think of. Tym Byrnes’s trumpets takes over the role that you would normally expect from a vocalist, adding more lyrical touches to the music. Even though PAK is “only” a trio, it’s especially the guest pianists who also procure an important and not to be underestimated dimension.

All of this points in the direction of free jazz, but apart from the ferocity of that genre, I am pretty sure that everything you hear is thoroughly composed and reproduced by musicians out of this world. Centrepiece is the nearly ten minute long Caro-Kann in the middle of the record, but the shorter numbers are even more convincing. Absolute highlights are the incredibly wild title track, the rather short Blinding Light whose rhythm will make you think of a progressive thrash metal band, and the concluding Kempelen’s Automaton whose more conciliatory attitude makes for a nice ending.

Rest assured: an album like Secret Curve will only be released once or twice every decade. The fusion of jazz and rock music is certainly not a new idea, but I can’t think of any other artist who is able to find such a fine balance. In this case, Anderson, Abrams, Byrnes and guests have succeeded in combining the virtuoso delicacy of jazz with the unrelenting energy of rock music. Anything less than the maximum grade would be a slap in the face of the musicians!

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