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Andre Vida - Brud, Vol. I–III

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Artist: Andre Vida

Album: Brud, Vol. I–III

Label: Pan

Review date: Feb. 3, 2012

Andre Vida - "A Delicate Situation"

Just like your 80-year-old aunt, jazz critics love family trees. Many reviews tend to trace genealogies and provide a litany of who played with whom and suggest albums and sounds that the player in question is descended from. And just like your aunt’s intentions are good, so are the jazz reviewer’s, but the execution often leaves one numb, if not outright bored. The negative effect goes beyond the tedious, too. When we reduce a musician to a series of historical series and reference points, we distort that musician’s own history, and, more significantly, we suck all the life out the music.

Much art criticism suffers from this tendency to categorize and create linear histories, of course, but jazz writing is particularly guilty of it. And I bring it up for a couple of reasons: jazz is a big part of what saxophonist Andre Vida does and the temptation to chop up the three discs in this 15-year overview into digestible lineages and neat chains of influence is huge.

I could throw out a few entry points, like Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata or some of the rawer modern klezmer music John Zorn’s Tzadik put out in the 1990s and early ’00s, and I wouldn’t be off base. Large parts of the first disc are Vida channelling Kirk’s superhuman, multi-sax playing, while the third disc is dominated by a quartet of Vida with accordion, bass and drums playing minor-mode grooves with all kinds of twists and turns.

But if those are our entry points, how to fit in the gnarly, swirling pieces where Vida, on modular synth, duets with Anthony Braxton? Or what about the sprawling compositions on the second disc, which start out as spiky improv but then morph into laminal dronescapes and intense timbral investigations of woodwind textures? How about the solo cello piece? Or the swinging ensemble pieces in the Kastle series? You don’t, that’s how, and this is what makes Vida so intriguing.

More than a clear lineage, Vida exemplifies what Ben Hall, in his essay on the BSC from Manual, calls “the elasticity of tradition, the edges versus the core.” More than fitting into and responding to some canon, Vida channels a diverse range of ideas and approaches, not all of them very jazz. It’s why three discs was the only way to communicate what Vida does. Later in the same essay, Hall rails against the stunting effect of genealogies, saying, “This is part of art’s domestication, taking the menace of originality and hammering it into a chain of cause and effect.” Consider Brud plenty feral, and full of menace.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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