Jazz can be so many different things. And that should suffice for platitudes. Jazz is always at its best, namely, when the question never arises about whether it is really jazz. This may be all the more impressive when a band brings along all the ingredients of an accepted jazz quartet and yet works quite differently, as in the case of the quartet Nautilus on their album Infrablue. Nautilus – made up of saxophonist Hayden Chisholm, pianist Jürgen Friedrich, bassist Robert Lucaciu and drummer Philipp Scholz. All four have made a name for themselves in various jazz contexts and reach a whole new collective sensibility in Nautilus. As they search for sound together, the music they make is incredibly soft and organic. It leaves the association of the hand-made behind and acts so self-evidently as if it were simply a part of nature. The care with which the band approaches not only their music, but also themselves is nearly unprecedented in contemporary jazz.
To achieve this level, the four musicians did not need to make any agreements. Bassist Robert Lucaciu traces it back to the individual and collective spirit of all involved. Nothing, where one has to reflect. “I think we are simply like that. Associations cannot be planned. But you can create the conditions that you completely lose yourself in a mood. And that is what we do.”
The four musicians from Nautilus bring the toolbox of jazz along, but resist the temptation to show fully what they can do with it. Indeed, everything artisanal is left out. All they need to do is to set down this toolbox and just calmly wait for what happens. From this serenity comes sound, and that sound sets free a sense of gentle exuberance in the listener’s ear. At no moment does this have anything to do with the ambitions of the parties involved, but rather it is about an unusual humility before the power of the sound. Lucaciu describes this process – to feel with the ears – with the words: “For me, it seems as if we feel for something in a dark room, very slowly, without giving in to the urge to turn on the light. It is about the intuitive ability to sense the room and then to move it.”
Of course, the title Infrablue releases a number of associations. Blue, the color of jazz, the blues, blue notes, Kind of Blue. At night a color that one can feel rather than see. And as the infrared will disappear before the human eye in the spectrum of colors and is transformed into heat, so too the infrablue completely dissolves into a warming sound in the listener’s ear. The neologism stems from Jürgen Friedrich. It fit perfectly in the relationship of the band to their music, but as Lucaciu says, “that was not a slogan whose meaning was clear to us from the outset. It is more a vessel which we filled with content.”
And that is how it feels when listening to this music, as if a color is transformed into a state. This state is made audible. It is perhaps a little similar to the light of a projector between the image source and screen. The beam contains all the information of the image, without displaying it itself. Rather, one sees elementary particles dancing in the beam, which have nothing to do with the image itself. Yet these do not in the least interfere with the projection, which arrives at the end.
The four band members organize the overall sound so symbiotically that one almost forgets these are different individuals with appropriately different backgrounds. The typical way jazz musicians intrinsically negotiate who plays what and when and how much of a solo here or there – none of that is present here. At every point of time, the music is about the common share of the whole. Nevertheless, the four here have different things in their luggage, all of which they give to the music. Above all, Lucaciu points to the experience of making music. Jürgen Friedrich and Hayden Chisholm are a bit older than Philipp Scholz and Robert Lucaciu. They resolve their different compositional approaches, however, collectively in improvisation. “The differences do not matter,” says Lucaciu. “This slow exploration and microscopic research in general are much more important than anything that divides us.”
This slow exploration, as Lucaciu describes it, does not imply that the principles of composition and improvisation simply overlap, but that the musicians adjust to the needs of the particular songs with great care – there we have the word again. This process, in turn, peaks in a very alert and conscious representation of what one finds there. The structures result from very small elements whose osmosis takes place quite differently every time. Walls or boundaries, which should be overcome, do not exist. Only permeable membranes that make merging and being possible in every case.
A very poetic worldview unfolds on Infrablue, one which is not tarnished by the fact that one of the songs is called “Armageddon.” If doomsday really is as it is presented here, then we can safely seek refuge in Nautilus and look forward to it.