Wednesday 27 March 2024

'Conversation #11 & #12: ON!' by Florian Arbenz

'Conversation #11 & #12: ON!' marks the thrilling culmination of Florian Arbenz's twelve-part series that has generated some thrilling installments.

Having initially conceived the project in 2021, Swiss drummer and composer Arbenz unveiled the first in his Conversation series almost exactly three years ago with the intention of recording twelve albums each showcasing his music amongst various ensembles.  With past releases featuring the incredible contributions of Greg Osby, Maikel Vistel, Rafael Jerjen and Oren Marshall - amongst several other key names from artists across the world - Arbenz's inspired project found its genesis within the confines of his own studio which would ultimately provide the suitable safe space for him and his collaborators going forward.

It's somewhat reminiscent of Ali Shaheed Muhammad's and Adrian Younge's riveting Jazz is Dead series which pairs the duo with a different luminary from the jazz world for each of their releases and, like them, Arbenz is renown for his passion for collaboration.  Creating music with like-minded artists, sharing ideas and concepts, each artist learning from each other... all traits that have served as chief inspiration to Arbenz for much of his illustrious career.

His 2020 'Convergence' project saw Arbenz unite with musicians from Cuba, Brazil, Australia and the UK and proved to be something of a precursor to the Conversation series.  A warmly received project that afforded Arbenz a new creative avenue following his extensive work as part of the Swiss trio, VEIN, alongside pianist Michael Arbenz and bassist Thomas Lähns.

With a career that has seen the drummer grace stages and studios for over 25 years, his continual search for new ideas and inspirations has led him down a fascinating path and to the release of 'Conversation #11 & #12: ON!'.

For these final two instalments of the series, Arbenz is joined by vocalist Yumi Ito, trumpeter Percy Pursglove, pianist Ivo Neame, guitarist Szymon Mike and vibraphonist Jim Hart for an ensemble that Arbenz describes on his Bandcamp page as the riskiest he has assembled to date.  With Hart the only artist Arbenz had collaborated with previously, he seems to have approached these sessions with equal parts excitement and trepidation which is endearing in its own way.  But despite his obvious humility, the results speak for themselves.  Throughout the album's free-flowing and improvisational feel, there are some sensational tracks like the sublime 'Dreaming Music', the mildly frenetic but utterly compelling 'Yemayà is visiting Club 64' or the suitably rousing 'Celebration'.   

As mentioned earlier, this 'Conversation' series was only ever envisaged as a twelve-part project and it's a mammoth achievement that Florian Arbenz has managed to helm projects of such a high standard within just three years.  It will be fascinating to see whether there will actually be further Conversations or whether the drummer will seek to engage in an entirely new project but whichever he chooses, it will undoubtedly continue the lineage of quality and sincerity that listeners continue to expect from a Florian Arbenz release.

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