sister in kith is the third album from Treppenwitz, released by Discus Music in 2021. The band set up with microphones in a living room; the engineer pressed record and they played. There was no separation between the instruments, and the audio has almost no post-production treatment. The results are startlingly immediate. sister in kith is simply the raw sound of these musicians, on that day, in that room, and the stunning audio quality seems to almost ignore that fact.
This organic ethos is equally present in the music. sister in kith demonstrates Treppenwitz’s commitment to improvisation – which is to say, their commitment to using the present moment, the here and now, as the medium by which they dive into the unknown. Songforms are used a point of departure for explorations of sonic texture, harmonic sonority, rhythmic interplay and spontaneous interaction; sounds are configured and reconfigured in a deep dialogue of piano, bass and drums.
Influences come from far and wide. sockeyed / loose laces is a meditation in Bartokian rhapsodising; dream of a common language is a child of Paul Motian’s rubato ballads; sound logic / sound magic is a roguish nod to Anthony Braxton; brimful is surreal Ornette swing. The final track, a mackerel’s tale, featuring special guest Nel Begley, spins a narrative about a woman who metamorphoses into a sea creature. The end result is an album which is willing to borrow from anything and everything it can to achieve its aims.
Just when you think that the standard jazz piano trio concept is, to paraphrase a Brian Eno maxism, “a dead fish”, along comes something to shake your beliefs to their core. Treppenwitz aren’t mere one-hit wonders, however; this is their third go-‘round at reinventing legacy and subverting cliché, and damn if it doesn’t come to a frothy head on this buoyant long-player. Pianist Matthew Aplin for one is armed with the art of improvisation but his influences are tougher to pin down; he can tickle the ivories with the same furious abandon and tonal diversity as Keith Tippett throughout the nine-minute run of “Sound Logic / Sound Magic”, but as the piece’s second half proceeds, settles down into a more probing, methodical discourse that can be positively Tyner-esque. Bassist Tom Riviere plays with a jocularity that is equal parts bravado and bluster, whether keeping straight time across the post-bop shuffle of “Brimful” or marking out his territory with a pronounced and strident pizzicato across “Watching the Arc of Bats”. Drummer Steve Hanley makes quite the brash noise, tumbling down the proverbial stairs on the opening salvo “Staircase Stomp” or knowing how to cymbal-ize his kit to achieve the most dramatic effects, particularly as he maps out contours on “Sockeyed / Loose Laces” for his comrades to follow. No matter its component parts, Sister in Kith is a synergistic effort through and through, oscillating from serenity to free expression with an alacrity that belies this young trio’s collective years.
Darren Bergstein, DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY NYC
The quality of both the music and the audio is quite remarkable.
Bebop Spoken Here
This is a real treat. High level imagination, deep listening, intimate and playful interaction. Not to mention excellent musicianship, deployed with taste and service to the moment. Highly recommended.
John Pope, bass player and composer
It’s intensity, it’s sensitivity, it’s manifest glories. It’s press
Martin Powell, JATP Jazz