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Review roundup - The best new jazz prog releases

Sid Smith rounds up the latest jazz prog releases from Ben Monder, Nik Bärtsch, Keith Tippet, Magnus Öström and Sonar

Guitarist Ben Monder’s work on David Bowie’s Blackstar turned heads last year, and his latest album Amorphae (ECM) deserves to turn a few more.

Creating vast landscapes wreathed in chilly harmonic fog, his luminous tones feel out yearning melodies and dreamy motifs. Journeying to darker spaces, he traces echoes of pulsing ghost machinery invoked occasional manifestations from drummers Andrew Cyrille and Paul Motian. Ruminative and absorbing, Monder’s painterly vision is nevertheless intensely dramatic.

On Continuum (ECM), Swiss pianist and zen funk pioneer Nik Bärtsch extends his metronomically charged compositions to include a string quintet. Unlike Ronin, Bärtsch’s regular group, this acoustic ensemble is far more intimate. As violins and cello unfurl, terse melodies flutter and swirl, distributed across breathy bass clarinet counterpoint and chattering percussion, while dolorous piano hovers over the tidal ebb of brushed snare. As ever with Bärtsch, the brilliance of the big picture stems from the attention lavished upon small, intricate details. Mesmeric and stunning.

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