Tuesday 23 January 2024

'Oneness' by Christoph Grab's Reflections

"I say, play your own way.  Don't play what the public want - you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing - even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."

In the age-old dispute of art versus commerce, the legendary Thelonious Monk was steadfast in his belief that genuine success could only come from an artist being true to oneself.  As a pianist, composer and keen improviser, Monk was known to impart numerous insights about the importance of cementing your own identity and not being afraid to veer off the beaten path, carving out your own lane and template for others to follow.  And it's a lesson that has resonated strongly with Christoph Grab who pays loving homage to the great jazz icon via his latest release, 'Oneness'.

For the Swiss saxophonist, composer and educator, Grab has indeed carved out an incredible career for himself in the vein of Monk's own ideologies.  Boasting an expansive selection of full-length releases to his own name, Grab has also seen succeses alongside his Blossom and Root Area ensembles as well as having collaborated and performed with Science Fiction Theatre, Zurich Jazz Orchestra and Lukas Bitterlin Quartet.  In a selection of projects too numerous to delve into here, Grab continues to brilliantly embrace these varied opportunities to chronicle his own musical adventures continually demonstrating the skill and proficiency to dabble across a variety of styles and genres.  Even his penchant for electronic and dance music manages to find its own outlet as Grab continues to defy expectations.

For 'Oneness', Grab assembles his Reflections quintet to present, not just a record to herald a jazz pioneer and hero, but also to make a social call for unity in times where compassion is perhaps in short supply.  It's a profound and noble sentiment to inspire a project and such sensitivities are exquisitely tackled throughout this nine track gem.

Grab's Reflections quintet is represented by a masterful display of talented artists and performing alongside Christoph Grab for 'Oneness' are trumpeter Lukas Thoeni, trombonist Andreas Tschopp, bassist Bänz Oester and drummer Pius Baschnagel.  Incredibly, despite an album with the work of Thelonious Monk at its core, the Reflections line-up is devoid of a substitute pianist or any harmony instrument which proves to be something of a genius concept as the move seems to afford the musicians more freedom to take the music into exciting new directions and perspectives.

While still recognisable, a selection of Monk classics - including 'Ugly Beauty', 'Something in Blue', 'Who Knows' and 'We See' - are interpreted in inspiring new ways while still performed with such care and elegance that pays the originals all due respect.

This is an excellent release from Christoph Grab - an affectionate tribute to an icon in Thelonious Monk but still a project that demonstrates Grab's ability to push forward with his music.

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