Flautist Christian Artmann’s work seems to be rooted in the notion that art can and will stretch as far as the imagination will take it. And in his case, that’s quite a distance. With Fields Of Pannonia, Artmann presents an album-length fantasia, bringing jazz language, baroque influences, impressionistic ideals, swing, straight-eighth grooves, open-ended thoughts, and solidly-structured songs into contact with one another.
Part of the charm of this music is in the way that Artmann and his band mates manage to paint with a specific intent that’s then tempered with another. Noticeable directional beacons find their way into the most feisty and far-out offerings, headstrong ideals are delivered with a delicate touch, and dreamy gestures are ballasted by the bottom-end players. Artmann, as the architect of this project, can be seen as the figure who’s largely responsible for juxtaposing these elements against one another, but the credit really deserves to be spread around: Gregg Kallor is a chameleon, placing calming harmonic cushions, piano droplets, outré rejoinders, and in-the-tradition comping beneath or against his comrades; bassist Johannes Weidenmueller gives the music firmness and presence, locking things into place and delivering downy tones that add warmth and weight; and drummer Jeff Hirshfield is a model of taste, working with a light touch and strong rhythmic conception. Together, these men make for a colorful ensemble that’s capable of stretching Artmann’s music in fascinating ways.
The album opens with the amiable title track, a piece with a pleasant disposition that serves as an easy entry point into the leader’s universe. From there, Artmann and company shift toward swing with a nod to Wayne Shorter (“Fum-Fo-Fi”) and look back to J.S. Bach with a number that uses his Partita in A Minor (BWV 1013) as a leaping-off point (“Sarabande”). Improvised material (“Sunya” and “Atacama”), funky fare (“Garuda’s Song”), sunny suggestions (“August”), and outside offerings (“Vortex”) all follow, furthering the diversity in Artmann’s artfully crafted musical portfolio. By the time the album comes to an end with a warm and inviting cradle song (“Lullaby For Julian”), Artmann has established himself as a composer with great vision, a performer with a strong creative streak, and a collaborator who works with open ears.