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Violist Szilard Mezei originally hails from Serbia (he’s now based in France), and though his name might not crop up as quickly among the foremost European improvising composers active today, his CV is lengthy and includes groups ranging from duo to orchestra. Innen is the Mezei Wind Quartet’s second disc to date – the first, We Were Watching the Rain, appeared on Leo in 2008. Across seven of the violist’s compositions he’s joined by reedman Bogdan Rankovic, trombonist Branislav Aksin, and tubaist Kornel Papista. What’s striking about the group is that, without a chordal rhythm section, they nevertheless put forth significant motion – not an impossible feat for a chamber ensemble, sure, but in spite of a relatively preponderant shade, the foursome have a spry, dancing energy. All four musicians can occupy front line or subservient roles – strums and repeating blats at play with brassy high-pitched chortle and mouthy, choppy woodwinds.
“Hep 15 R” nods to Anthony Braxton in the placement of Rankovic’s dry, lyrical alto against massed swirls and dissonant, puckered unison lines that gradually move into seesawing collectivity. Mezei’s scrabbled harmonics and constantly shifting athletic hum is an incredible directing force, imbuing this small unit with both orchestral weight and devilish immediacy. Earlier in the disc, “Nagymacska” stomps in rings around a dominant tonal center, opening out into flitting conversational vistas with players duetting or soloing over a subtle, hushed rhythmic backing. It’s a gorgeous piece that really gives one an idea of how the quartet works to realize compositional vision with the maximum amount of freedom – the soft walk of alto and tuba holding court as Mezei peels off in gritty ponticello, or Aksin’s elegant slides atop a choppy, plucked tiptoe. Excellent stuff.
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