Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin – Live ★★★★

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ECM371 4093 | Nik Bärtsch (p), Sha (b clt, as), Björn Meyer, Thomy Jordi (el b), Kaspar Rast (d), and Andi Pupato (perc). Rec. date not stated

While Ronin have made three fine studio albums for ECM – Stoa (2005), Holon (2007) and Liyría (2010) – this is a band that should be seen live, where the essence of their music is revealed. A band that masterfully exploits tension and release, nothing can quite capture the drama, and the audience reaction, as they move from one of their minimalistic, yet rhythmically layered passages, to the next interlocking passage, an experience analogous to a powerful car moving effortlessly through the gears. The next best thing is a wellrecorded live album, and this two-CD set captures the band in live settings such as the Jazztage in Leipzig, Tokyo’s Pit-Inn, Jazzbaltica, Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, The Sage in Gateshead, the Vienna Radiokulturhaus, Lörrach’s Burghof and Mannheim’s Enjoy Jazz. Here the rapport the band have with their audience is palpable as they gauge the effect of tension to perfectly judged release; giving great focus to material such as ‘Module 35’, from Stoa, ‘Module 41_17’, ‘Module 42’, and ‘Module 45’ from Holon and ‘Module 55’, ‘Module 48’, and ‘Module 47’ from Llyria.

– Stuart Nicholson