Kennel / Brennan

Leo Records / CDLR292

Hans Kennel /trumpet, alphorn

John Wolf Brennan /pipe organ

Marc Unternahrer / tuba





Ernesto Diaz-Infante

Pax Recordings / PR90250

Ernesto Diaz-Infante / piano

Ernesto Diaz-Infante is a pianist and guitarist of remarkably catholic tastes. Last year he released a fearsomely noisy electric guitar record and a quiet, Feldman-inspired set of piano pieces. Here he’s back with the piano, but the mood is much more restless and the overall feel far more technically assured.

Superficially, there’s a common note here with Howard Riley, in that this music has a rolling rhythm which is driven by distorted, elasticated boogie-woogie bass lines topped by zingy dissonances. But the difference is that this isn’t really very jazzy music; it sounds far more indebted to classicism, and the cool breeze of Diaz-Infante’s previous disk blows through this session, too. There may be many ragtime strategies in this music, but they’re borrowed and translated just like Tatum translated classical music into jazz.

Harmonically there are some very clever things going on here — Diaz-Infante has either a cunning ear or some kind of theoretical thing going on, as many of these pieces make perfect sense in terms of functional harmony, another oddly classical concept which is a million miles away from the free jazz this resembles on the surface. Just one complaint: there are thirteen tracks here, all of moderate length, and it would have been nice to hear how these ideas would work over a longer time-scale.

John Wolf Brennan is also a pianist known for his eclecticism, and here he has translated himself onto a church organ for the purposes of playing something somewhere in between baroque music and jazz. Kennel is the perfect partner in such a project; his trumpet is brilliant and bright, sharp and clear, just as it should be for this music of fanfares. Eschewing strong dissonances, this duo instead reach for harmonic nuances and the sound of a big baroque church celebration transported en masse into the twenty-first century.

They’re joined by Unternahrer’s tuba for just four tracks, and his uneasy parp pushes them into slightly edgier waters. This is music you really have to listen to: it ccreates an aura of pleasing-enough sound, and that’s all you hear if it’s on in the background. Only close-up do their cleverly intertwined lines really emerge. What’s more, the very weirdness of this project can overpower the music the first time you hear it. But there’s real musical intelligence under that it’s-better-than-it-sounds exterior.

Brennan and Kennel have managed to take a powerfully classical paradigm and inject, rather gently, some elements of jazz into it, creating an improvised music of some complexity out of an unpromising culture clash. In a quite different way, Ernesto Diaz-Infante is using classical and jazz strategies together to create a cerebral but also rather inviting piano music. Classical-jazz crossovers? Nu-cool? Maybe, but two more different results of such cross-fertilisation would be hard to some by. Richard Cochrane

Hans Kennel’s web page