Piano and drums duos have a long history in Jazz, dating back to when the piano's melodic function and the drum's rhythmic underpinning were often a nightclub’s preferred musical accompaniment. With percussiveness part of his style and conviction that a drummer could take on lyrical functions, Cecil Taylor turned this convention on its head, most memorably in 1988 Berlin, partnering drummers such as Han Bennink and Gunter 'Baby' Sommer.
Also in Berlin, but generations removed from these conventions, are pianist Achim Kaufmann and drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis, protagonists of this fine session. Aachen-native Kaufmann and Thessaloniki-born Dimitriadis both arrived in the German capital early in this century after extensive musical experience in Amsterdam and Paris respectively. In the midst of exploring the limits of improvisation with many of the city's residents, most notably in the pianist's case with saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and bassist Wilbert de Joode, and the drummer's with trumpeter Axel Dörner and saxophonist Floros Floridis, Kaufmann played with drummers like Tony Buck and Christian Lillinger and Dimitriadis with keyboardist Antonis Anissegos and accordionist/electronic musician Andrea Parkins. The two first met at different gigs and, expanding the dual concept, have worked together since 2017. "By thinking of the duo as one instrument and sometimes reversing the instruments' roles, our focus is to create our own amalgam of textures, resonances and electronic timbres by exploring and extending many new sound possibilities" explains Dimitriadis. Deciding to test these theories, the two booked a studio where the four selections which make up Nowhere One Goes were created. All come from one long session where, as the drummer says, "music was created in the moment." The challenge, he adds, was "choosing what to bring to the foreground, as if using an auditory magnifying glass."
The savvy listener can appreciate this focus when mysterious timbres are unexpectedly heard. For instance 'Marbles', the first track, finds piano and drum textures mutating from a chiming swing groove to intense form exploration. Surprisingly mottled glass balls weren't used. Instead the caroming crackles which define the piece were created by piano string preparations set off by Kaufmann's E-Bows and fingers on the keyboard and a contact mic picking up vibrations from Dimitriadis' sticks and brushes. Meanwhile, the subsequent 'Samaris' named for the fantastical graphic novel The Walls of Samaris, is sprightly and almost baroque, as the pianist simultaneously advances the song form with measured chording while coloring the theme with dynamic cadenzas. These tropes are further enhanced by the drummer's slides and rumbles. 'Ersilia', named for Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, a book of poetic parables, bolsters the duo's role reversal. Here the drummer's unforced attack contrasts with the pianist's pressurized percussive elaborations, albeit following an introductory expanse of gentle keyboard patterns and Dimitriadis' rugged clattering, chugging, and buzzing rugged patterns, none of which though upset the subtle narrative. Finally the concluding 'Infinitesimal', influenced by ideas expressed by composer Éliane Radigue, also highlights unconventional modulations. Almost celestial, the shimmering, dissonant tones produced by cymbal strokes and buzzing piano strings take on woodwind-like agility and with electronic overtones gradually expand an exposition that balances light and dark textures.
Refuting the last track title, the disc is anything but as small in conception. Instead Nowhere One Goes masterfully exposes the infinite sonic palette available from just keyboard and percussion. Like the other works of imagination referenced here, the CD also marks a defining statement from two cultivated and mature musical artists.