WWW.ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM October 23, 2022; Martin Kuchen, Agusti Fernandez, Zlatko Kaucic: The Steps That Resonate ***1/2

Once improvisers reach a certain level of experience, it is rare that a meeting between them does not deliver the goods. By this stage they are well versed in the mechanics of collective music making off the map. They have developed a fine sense of when to play and when not, how much they can respond without it becoming predictable, and a host of other similarly arcane split-second decisions which happen faster than thought. But when masters of the art such as Swedish reedman Martin Kuchen, Catalan pianist Agusti Fernandez and Slovenian drummer Zlatko Kaućić combine, there is always likely to be an additional element of magic in the mix.

So it proves on The Steps That Resonate, a 38-minute concert including encore, recorded in 2021, at the BCMF Festival at Šmartno in Kaučič's homeland. The three enjoy an exchange of texture and timbre, which stretches the accepted sonic signatures of their instruments, and do so with invention and flair to make this a thrilling journey. The explosive start, a simultaneous crash from piano and percussion, shadowed by strangulated soprano saxophone, heralds a series of climaxes and lulls which veer from near inaudibility to roiling tumult, peppered with pauses whose silence only amplifies the overall impact.

Fernandez excels at shifting between abstract probing, a tolling bottom end and cascades which conjure the spirit of Cecil Taylor on the keys, and scrapes and bangs which extract unlikely resonances from inside the guts of the piano. Such percussive moments blend well with Kaučič who, with his assortment of cymbals, blocks, membranes and implements, proves well equipped to trade in convulsive clatter and tappy dialogue. But one of the things that elevates this set above the ordinary is the way in which Küchen introduces an emotional dimension into this rarefied atmosphere, courtesy of his bent note bleats, false-fingered cries, vocalized howls and anguished keening. Humor too, when he evokes the yelps of squeaky toys.

A short well-deserved encore accentuates the drama inherent in the spacious interaction of detail and gesture, and does so with admirable tension- building restraint, providing a pithy survey of the virtues of this grouping.

(John Sharpe)

WWW.SOUNDOHM.COM Martin Küchen, Agustí Fernandez, Zlatko Kaučič:The Steps That Resonate

Uniquely orchestrated with all three members bringing a trove of objects & percussion, the trio of Martin Küchen on saxophones, Agustí Fernández on piano and Zlatko Kaučič on drums are heard in this two-part live concert at BUMF festival in Smartno, Slovenia, for a superb example of intent listening and use of space around confident, stunningly creative & virtuosic playing.

"Dispensing with the double bass and its rhythmic pulse is only a risky matter if a band faces unexpected breaches in musical strategies. There's no chance of that happening on these well-paced sets, since the groups involved are well acquainted with split second decision making during instant improvising.

[...] the players on The Steps that Resonate resonate one extended and one brief encore dedicated to tussling, sometimes brawling, high-octane Free Music. Each is a veteran of that genre. Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaucic plays with partners like Evan Parker; Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández, works with Parker, Barry Guy and many others; while Swedish saxophonist Martin Kuchen has recorded solo sets and with everyone from Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten to Raymond Strid.

Stopping infrequently for brief quiet refueling, Küchen/Fernández/Kaučič begin with a collective pounding that's one-part rugged drum crashes, one-part dynamic keyboard pressure and one-part rooster crowing reed shrills. The three operate at that elevated level for almost the next 40 minutes. Along the way the saxophonist unearths nearly every manner of extended reed techniques, with his parts peppered with pinched yelping and buzzing, continued tongue slaps and tongue stops, strident overblowing and piercing split-tone screams. Shaking metal objects, squeezing plush toys as well as clanking and clattering regular drum kit parts and cymbals, Kaučič maintain a percussive overlay that squires, shifts and shoves the interface. Not to be outdone, Fernández not only vibrates the keyboards with dynamic, staccato patterns, but also rumbles low tones from the woody parts of the piano and strums and pinches the instrument inner strings, something juggling items upon them.

After the saxophonist's stretched duck calls and aviary gargles are met by piano soundboard rumbles and descending drum slaps, a brief interlude of stopped piano keys rattling and straight ahead trebly vibrations from the saxophonist adds emotional resonance to the situation. Shortly afterwards however all three revert to energetic output with Fernández sweeping what could be a metal comb across the strings for added resonance, Küchen snarling and whining tsopranino timbres and Kaučič's slaps and rattles keeping pace. Finally they reach a crescendo of trilling cries, doits and smeared vibrations from the saxophonist that coupled with drum nerve beats and simultaneous keyboard battering reaches a point of no return and dissolves into silence. In response to audience demands the brief coda reaches some semblance of the initial commotion, but is a bit superfluous since the trio members have said all they needed to in the first instance.[...]"

(Ken Waxman)

WWW.THENEWNOISE.IT 20/06/2022; KÜCHEN / FERNÁNDEZ / KAUČIČ, The Steps That Resonate

Anime e corpi di miriadi di progetti, il sassofonista svedese Küchen (Angles 9, soprano, sopranino e piccole percussioni), il pianista spagnolo Fernández e il percussionista sloveno Kaučič danno letteralmente fuoco alle polveri in questa splendida improvvisazione catturata al BCMF Festival di Šmartno, nel Collio sloveno, e pubblicata dalla polacca Not Two Records. Di come Kaučič sia un rabdomante della musica creativa abbiamo gia parlato a piu riprese, i due partners in crime non gli sono da meno e cospirano senza requie con fitte trame che svariano da esercizi di acrobazia sul limitare del silenzio a esplosioni vulcaniche. Il tutto con un controllo del suono, un’ispirazione ed un sentire telepatico che hanno del prodigioso. Grammatiche liberissime per un discorso istantaneo che ha la complessita di un’Odissea ed invece e un canto rauco dell’istante, abitato da un mood luminoso, primitivo, selvatico, apocalittico. Queste musiche convocano le divinita dei cieli e delle terre: nel mistero che si annida dentro alla cordiere del pianoforte, nel tasto bianco per la nota nera, nelle urla del sassofono e nei rituali ctoni della batteria espansa sono custoditi, intatti, la gioia e il fascino che la musica libera continua ad esercitare sulle nostre orecchie. Un disco per gli introdotti al segreto dell’impro-jazz della piu bell’acqua: non c’e nulla da capire, nulla da aggiungere, nulla da chiosare. Sono solo didascalie, tentativi di chiudere in un angolo il buio che avanza nei secoli, nelle stanze. Siamo animali pensanti e abbiamo cominciato a produrre suoni per imitare la natura, per lenire il timore di una tempesta, per scacciare lupi, orsi. Lo eravamo, lo saremo. Passi che risuonano: orme, epica infranta, ombre, vita. Poi spariremo, poi morte. Ascoltate questo cd.

WWW.NIEUWENOTEN.NL 3 september 2022; Martin Küchen – Utopia / Martin Küchen, Agustí Fernández & Zlatko Kaučič – The Steps that Resonate (Live) (CD Recensie)

‘The Steps that Resonate (Live), opgenomen in september 2021 tijdens het BUMF festival Šmartno, in het Sloveense Goriška Brda, bestaat uit twee delen. De eerste improvisatie duurt ruim een half uur, de tweede is een toegift van ruim vijf minuten. Bijzonder opwindende muziek van drie musici die al enige decennia meedraaien in de geimproviseerde muziek. Je hoort het zonder meer af aan de wijze waarop hier wordt gemusiceerd. Een mooi moment zit in de achtste minuut, als zowel Fernández, hier duidelijk actief onder de klep, als Kaučič ons trakteren op percussieve klanken, door Küchen met schrille saxklanken begeleid. En dat met die typische klankkleur, waar we hierboven ook al over spraken: schril, gruizig, melancholiek en met grote zeggingskracht. En ook prachtig in dat kader: die stuwende passage iets over de helft. ‘Fernández en Kaučič die het ritme langzaam opvoeren en Küchen die hier werkelijk alles uit de kast trekt op zijn sopraansax. Maar ook het spel van Fernández en Kaučič is meer dan de moeite waard. Dat van Fernández is, mede doordat hij regelmatig letterlijk de snaren beroert, bijzonder afwisselend en dat van Kaučič valt sterk op door de polyritmische patronen die iedere keer weer de kop opsteken.

(Ben Taffijn)

Küchen, Fernandez, Kaučič: The Steps That Resonate

"These two strikingly dissimilar approaches to free improvisation both feature Catalan Agustí Fernández (who turns 68 this month) with highly capable partners. The pianist, who has made a substantial mark with his lush and diverse discography since the ‘80s, explores some new directions, both powerful and innovative, sometimes disturbing, but always uncompromising and fascinating.

The Steps That Resonate, a concert recording from Goriška Brda, Slovenia, is comprised of two improvised pieces, with “Pt 1” taking up most of the album and “Pt 2” perhaps somewhat less intense but continuing the process set by the first track. The sounds are exacting, compelling and exciting, almost always with a bold urgency, as the members of the trio display muscular thrusts, variegated sounds, with changes taking place quicker than you can say “John Zorn”.

So many types of sound are articulated that it is difficult to keep up with them. Swedish soprano/ sopranino saxophonist Martin Küchen’s disjointed and aggressive plunges feature flutter tones, wails, silence, screeching cries, ferocious phrases interspersed with softness and dramatic changes in tempo. Slovenian drummer/percussionist Zlatko Kaučič is brilliant throughout, his large tsunami-like phrases combining with lots of little sounds and his hard-driving pounding percussion kit and and plethora of kitchen sink objects a great foil for the saxophonist. Fernández is always in the mix, sometimes relying on the inner strings of the piano, at other times flirting with extreme speed and intense layering. His contributions are egoless, but central to the project’s success. Along the way, the trio remains cohesive, never relenting, always “on”, so that at the end of each track, there is a visceral groundswell of applause from an appreciative audience for a thoroughly exhausting and worthwhile experience.

Frustrated by not being able to perform together due to COVID, Fernández and Polish bass guitarist Rafał Mazur decided to perform a series of musical letters to each other, which yielded Correspondence With No Words. Alternating tracks, each prepared a solo piece, which was answered by the other in another solo piece and so on for ten tracks.

It is an unusual duo, as each participant engages in extremes of his instrument. For example, the opening “For Rafal” features the pianist performing un-piano- like sounds, with a strong percussive element and a focus on the inside strings, sounding nothing like a traditional piano. There are long and intense noises, swishes, lots of scratchy noises and plucked strings. The bass guitarist responds in kind and it is astonishing that, without a scorecard, it would be difficult to tell which is which, as the percussive strings from the piano and bass guitar sound surprisingly similar. The sound is non-stop, with constant changes in velocity, volume and range. Low tones are prevalent as this strange duo prevails with consummate weirdness as it mines the lower depths. While this can be difficult listening, it is nonetheless compelling and its unique approach shines through."

(Steven Loewy)

WWW.ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM August 29, 2022; Küchen, Fernandez, Kaučič: The Steps That Resonate ****1/2

Registrato il 9 settembre 2021 a Šmartno, durante l'undicesima edizione del Brda Contemporary Music Festival, questo disco documenta l'improvvisazione realizzata dal sassofonista svedese Martin Kuchen, dal pianista spagnolo Augusti Fernandez e dal batterista Zlatko Kaućić, che del festival e organizzatore e anima. Il lavoro e suddiviso in due parti (sebbene la copertina non lo riporti): la prima e una lunga improvvisazione di oltre mezzora, senza soluzione di continuita; la seconda una replica piu breve, circa cinque minuti, a mo' di bis.

L'atmosfera generale e quella dell'improvvisazione radicale europea, della quale i tre musicisti sono tra i grandi interpreti: totale liberta, suoni che dialogano, invenzioni rumoristiche, fortissima interazione tra i musicisti. L'andamento e invece piuttosto variabile, alternando con grande equilibrio ora passaggi scoppiettanti e impressionistici—come all'avvio, ove il rapido fraseggiare di Fernandez sulla tastiera e le invenzioni di Kaučič sulla batteria sono contrappuntati dai suoni quasi onomatopeici del sopranino di Küchen—ora momenti di progressione dinamica—come la parte conclusiva dell'improvvisazione principale, intensamente magmatica e coinvolgente—ora invece una lenta e meditata ricerca dei suoni—come esemplificato dall'improvvisazione-bis, ma che emerge piu e piu volte anche nello sviluppo della principale.

Nel corso di tutto il lavoro colpiscono la liberta e l'espressivita di Küchen—che spesso ricorda lo stile di Lol Coxhill, "sporco" ma ricco di invenzioni sonore —, la capacita di Kaučič di interagire in ogni momento con i compagni—grazie anche a una incredibile varieta di suoni, rumori e figurazioni—e lo straordinario equilibrio di Fernandez—musicista sempre sorprendente per la sua capacita di alternare con assoluta coerenza percussivita, fraseggi e invenzioni direttamente sulle corde.

Eccellente disco, che colpisce dal primo momento e che si apprezza sempre di nuovo a ogni ascolto.

Album della settimana.

(Neri Pollastri)

WWW.DUSTYGROOVE.COM Martin Kuchen/Agusti Fernandez/Zlatko Kaucic Steps That Resonate

The "resonate" in the title here is very well-put – as there's an overall sense of sound that comes not just from the core instruments handled by all three players in the trio – but also by the many "objects" that are part of the improvisation too! The album features one long improvised track, stretching out nearly 40 minutes in length – with work from Agusti Fernandez on piano, Zlatko Kaucic on drums, and Martin Kuchen on both soprano and sopranino saxes – blowing with these sharp, angular edges that really give the record a lot of bite! But it's also those extra sounds – those "objects" – that seem to create all these special moments along the course of the proceedings – almost in the spirit of some FMP record from the glory days of the European free jazz scene.

WWW.FREEJAZZBLOG.ORG July 16, 2022; Martin Küchen, Agusti Fernandez & Zlatko Kaucic - The Steps That Resonate (Not Two Records, 2022)

If you are not familiar with Zlatko Kaucic’s work, even though he is prolific and, deservedly, he is often presented on this site, you should go back in 2011 and listen to Round About One O’ Clock (again on Not Two Records), his duo with Evan Parker. Parker there is on top form and Kaucic is equally brilliant. Not an easy task indeed. Having said that, let’s get back to the present and to The Steps that Resonate, a free jazz come improv trio that kicks ass.

Recorded in another periphery of free improv, the BCMF Festival in Slovenia, except from Kaucic on drums and objects, you will enjoy Marin Küchen (by the way do check out his sublime 2021 duo on Clean Feed with Slovakian percussionist Michaela Antalova) on soprano and sopranino saxes plus pianist -always vocal about what’s going on in this world- Agusti Fernandez. All three of them are highly skilled musicians totally committed to the ethos of improvisation, as you already know by now.

The cd is comprised by two tracks named after the title as parts one and two, with part one being the core of the recording. This is a stellar performance, one of those that if you are lucky enough to attend, resonate inside you for quite a long time. The path followed by the three is the usual of collective improvisation. Using the word usual is, though, both an understatement and a euphemism.

There’s nothing usual in their egoless - sometimes aggressive, other times subtle - playing. In fact the only “usual” connection you will find is that this cd follows the steps of any great improvisational recording. Their playing is non-linear and they don’t seem to be willing to know exactly where they are going. Fernandez is very aggressive on the keyboard of the piano, hitting notes as if he is really angry. Probably his most aggressive performance I’ve heard. Kuchen seems to be going back and forth between a totally energetic approach and a more subtle playing. Kaucic is the centripetal force that keeps the centrifugal attitudes of the other two together. But do not get me wrong, both Küchen and Fernandez dissolve into a path of their own only to reach a point of playing together again. They are not soloists but, different voices on a parallel, linear road.

This cd is too good to be missed and another strong candidate for 2022 best of. I’m quite lucky with what I review lately.

(Fotis Nikolakopoulos)

WWW.ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM June 21, 2022; Martin Küchen, Agustí Fernandez, Zlatko Kaučič: The Steps That Resonate ****

Let's test the laws of thermodynamics with free improvisation music. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. This law is sublimely displayed during the live performance by Martin Kuchen, Agusti Fernandez, and Zlatko Kaućić at the BCMF Festival in Slovenia, in 2021.

While the Spanish pianist Fernandez and drummer & percussionist Kaučič have toured and recorded together—check out their duo Sonic Party (Not Two, 2018) and their collaboration with Evan Parker on Diversity (Not Two, 2018)—this is their first recorded outing with the Swede Küchen; the saxophonist, probably best known for his work in the various Angles ensembles, the Trespass Trio with Per Zanussi and Raymond Strid, and with the Landaus Trio, is equally comfortable playing inside or outside music, composed or free; like his partners, he is a dynamo. That is obvious from the crash which opens this set. The thermodynamics proof occurs as each player transfers the charged particles from their instrument to the others. Fernandez plies the insides of his piano, Kaučič activates his drum kit and objects, and Küchen sets in motion extended saxophone techniques, inspiring change without a mitigation of energy.

As for the next law of thermodynamics, hot things always cool unless you do something to stop them; the trio does allow for space throughout. They seem to pause to take stock of their creation before diving headfirst back into their improvised generator. Which verifies the hypothesis that entropy of a closed system can only increase. Class dismissed.

(Mark Corroto)


Küchen meets follow European masters improvisers – Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández and Slovenian drummer Zlatko Kaučič on «The Steps That Resonate», recorded at BUMF festival Šmartno in Goriška Brda in Slovenia in September 2021. It is the first recorded document of this trio that continues to perform sporadically throughout 2022, but Fernández and Kaučič already recorded before as a duo, with Italian reeds player Marco Colonna and in the Jubileum-Quartet (with Joëlle Léandre and Evan Parker).

The atmosphere on this 39-minute free improvisation is more urgent and adventurous. But after the stormy introduction all three musicians engage with sonic searches and experiments while exhausting their personal extended techniques, often with objects, but always with deep listening, great focus on detail, eccentric conversations and fast-shifting dynamics and imaginative and playful sense of risk-taking despite the often chaotic interplay. This trio is determined to never follow charted courses and establish its own rocky and thorny sonic sceneries, with commanding conviction, wil imagination and manic energy, all the way towards the cathartic climax. The short encore highlights this trio’s gift to sketch an instant, touching song, full of dramatic and surprising nuances, that keeps resonating long after it is gone.

Martin Küchen (ts, as, snare dr, elec. tanpura, speaker, radios), Agustí Fernández (p, objects), Zlatko Kaučič (dr, objects)

(Eyal Hareuveni)