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Henning Sievert's 'Double Quartet' is a Rare Meld of Beauty, Mystery and History [REVIEW]

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Jul 31, 2016 03:06 AM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (

Henning Sieverts

Historian, bassist, cellist, composer, bandleader, arranger Henning Sieverts (Photo : courtesy Pirouet Records)

German label Pirouet continues its fine flood of releases with Double Quartet by Henning Sieverts, who plays bass and cello, leads his band with flair and drama, and composes like a crazed visionary. For his 16th CD, he's gone back over 600 years to research the history of the Bavarian Irsee Monastery to uncover a mass written in 1614. He then wrote 15 original pieces of music (shortest 51 seconds; longest 12 minutes) for duo, quartet and octet in a similar style but expanding it into modern jazz. No overdubs.

The concept of a double quartet means two drummers, two saxophonists, clarinet, piano, vibraphone and tuba from France, Germany and Brooklyn. Sieverts laid it down for his talented assemblage and then, with what he calls "blind understanding" in the liner notes, proceeds to echo time immemorial by dredging up visions of the Mongolian Steppes and Tibetan monasteries via time signatures like the almost impossible 15/8 "Cantus Five."

Filled with classical cadences, Euro liturgical and Renaissance bubbles, its poly-rhythmic complexity never gets archaic and is kept moving at all times, a kinetic wonderland filled with amazing solos. Dig Loren Stillman's alto and soprano sax flights of fancy as well as Silvain Rifflet's tenor and clarinet. The cool little duets-done as a minute here and a minute there-that follow or begin each longer composition, are snippets of delight (especially the piano/vibes moment).

Sieverts, 50, has appeared on 130+ CDs, toured on six continents and teaches at Munich University. As a soloist, he's a daring risk-taker, giving the music the kind of texture and suspense that could be akin to a circus tightrope walker with no net. There's also a subtle mystery at work. It is the juxtaposition of these two attributes that makes Double Quartet such a find, and something that jazz and classical fans alike could really sink their teeth into.

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