Live Review: Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin at Love Supreme Festival
Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin
Love Supreme Festival
Sunday 1st July, 2018
Already known for his minimalistic yet energetic approach to composition through his previous works, both solo and as bandleader of the now four piece outfit Ronin, Swiss born pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch seems time and time again to effortlessly blend the sounds of neoclassical music with infectious funk orientated grooves, giving an idea of a kind of marriage between minimalism and funk music executed in an ambient almost hypnotic way. Heavily influenced by the likes of composers such as John Cage and Steve Reich, Bärtsch has also mentioned funk legend James Brown as a big influence on his writing and development. One can see the development of Bärtsch’s Ronin from 2002’s debut album Randori to 2018’s new release Awase. Over the years the line up has remained fairly stable and unchanged, however mid-2003 saw the release of the album Rea and along with it the first collaboration with bass clarinetist and alto saxophonist, Sha. Here afterwards we see a steady change in the sound of Ronin, going from a quartet focusing mainly around piano, bass, drums and percussion to a new line up seeing the departure of percussionist Andi Pupato and bassist Björn Meyer, to be replaced by Thomy Jordi taking the bass seat, and long-time collaborator Sha taking full residence in the now current line up. Clearly this has had an impact on the overall sound of Ronin. As can be heard from their recent performance at 2018’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin have taken their sound to a whole new level. Still focusing mainly on a minimalistic approach, backed and driven forwards by downtempo grooves, Nik Bärtsch still retains his signature and instantly recognizable sound, but with the addition of Sha’s bass clarinet providing another outlet for melody whilst creating more low end interplay between clarinet and electric bass. The best number to fully portray this new approach would be Modul 58 from the album Awase. Lasting nearly twenty minutes and all rhythmically building lightly around a repeated simple melody before finally breaking into a heavy frenzy of intense grooves and melodic interplay between all four musicians, this composition and the album it hails from show Ronin at their best and bringing their music to new heights. A must listen for fans of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin and GoGo Penguin.