Muriel Grossmann: Quiet Earth

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

This absolutely floored me. No, it isn’t country music. It’s jazz. And it is some of the best jazz I have ever heard. This is why doing deep searches in Bandcamp pays off. Sometimes, you just get sand, but on this day, I found a flawless diamond. Her name is Muriel Grossman and she plays the saxophone as if it is a part of her. And it most certainly is. She is also the leader of the band. After three minutes of listening to Quiet Earth I knew this was something special. It isn’t your standard five piece jazz ensemble either. There is electric guitar and Hammond organ in addition to the drums and bass. The shortest song is eight minutes and the longest is 11:30, but the time goes fast. It is such an easy listen.

Grossmann is Austrian born and grew up in Paris. She played the flute until she was 21, when she switched to saxophone. She moved to Barcelona in the early 2000s, where she started to lead and manage her own band. This is also when Grossmann started to record and take a very active role in the recording process. She has played all over Europe and throughout the world. It does not appear that she has ever played in the US, which has to change. Once things get back to some semblance of normalcy.

One of the jobs of the band leader is to find like minded musicians that share the same musical vision and are brilliant players. Mission accomplished. These bandmates are technically brilliant and are able to improvise on the spot and move through transitions flawlessly. And they all deliver. Muriel Grossmann is playing tenor saxophone with Radomir Milojkovic playing guitar, Llorenç Barceló on the organ, Uros Stamenkovic on the drums, and Gina Schwarz on bass.

When a song starts with a little bit of strings and an absolutely blissful sax solo, count me in. Wien is an 11 minute musical journey to the stars and back. It literally elevated me and took me to places I have never been. What am I hearing? What is is it about this song that affects me so profoundly? When I dig deep and really explore the music, I think the reason is that this reminds me of a cross between something from Sun Ra or some of the more experimental Miles Davis such as Bitches Brew. What starts out as a fairly traditional sounding jazz number quickly evolves into a semi-psychedelic voyage with lush sax, flawless drumming, bluesy organ, innovative bass, and some twangy guitar that would sound right at home on any country record.

Beautiful percussion is how I would describe the opening of Quiet Earth. Then it quickly morphs into an almost structureless being. It seems everyone is playing something different. But it still works. As a listener I feel as if I am on the ground floor of something that is building and gaining momentum. The dissonance soon gives way to some beautiful and free and filled with purpose and meaning. The song then does a dance between form and structure and controlled chaos. It all works perfectly, and at the end of the journey, I feel as if I travelled many miles.

After having gone through many listens already, I am still eager to hit the play button when the music stops momentarily. Like any journey, there is much to be gained by repeat visits. I always discover something that I had never noticed before. That is the beauty of music and it is present all over in Quiet Earth. If you will excuse, my exploration is about to begin.

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