Christian Lillinger Looks Like a Rocker, But His 'Grund' is Anything But [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt | Jan 08, 2016 12:03 AM EST
German drummer Christian Lillinger's Grund is undefinable. (Photo : Konstanten Kehr/Courtesy Pirouet Records)

He's been called a completely new type of jazz drummer and a drum revolutionary. Composer Christian Lillinger is certainly in the vanguard of what's coming out of Europe these days. Grund is his band. Grund is also his new Pirouet Records CD.

The odd instrumentation -- alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, piano, vibraphone, two acoustic basses, percussion and drums -- played by seven men lends itself to Grund being more a "New Music" phenomenon than a jazz one. Of course, distinctions like that are only for fools like me to try and compartmentalize a sound that you cannot properly discern. Ask Lillinger who his major influence is, though, and instead of Max Roach or Elvin Jones, the answer will be Pierre Boulez, the French composer who once collaborated with Frank Zappa, and who just passed away at the age of 90 on January 5, 2016.

Grund is all over the map. Opener "Tatul" might be grounded in swing, but they're just warming up. "Kinet" is influenced by the Swiss painter and sculptor Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) and his kinetic art in the Dada tradition. The music is all angles and sharp turns. You almost cannot even hear the beginning of "Blumer," what with its subtle bass bowing backed by soft/softer/softest piano and vibes, but when Christian signals the band in with a drum flourish, it turns into modernistic jazz. "Malm" is a dizzying whirling dervish of different time signatures. More quietness, one step above silence, ensues on "Fur Beate" and "Fur Gerd" to the point where you want to turn the volume up. This can be disconcerting.

"Flux" is always in a state of, with its repetitive figures that do not stop repeating and repeating and repeating. Inspired by the avant-garde artistic movement known as fluxus, it can be confounding upon first listen. "Pferdinand" is his sick dog. "Ga" and "Nonee" almost leave jazz entirely for a "New Music" classical aesthetic.

However you want to classify them, Grund, the band and the CD, are challenging, provocative and worthy of international attention.

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