There are a number of different stories woven into Our Story, flautist Christian Artmann’s first offering since 2015. Quotations in the liner notes from Zen sages Thich Nhat Hanh and Yasutani Roshi point to Artmann’s Buddhist faith, but the fifth cut of the record, “Amazing Grace,” makes a bit of room for the Christian narrative as well. And the album’s cross-pollination of musical styles, from Brazilian inflections to funk to straight-ahead jazz, suggests that Artmann’s ultimate purpose here is to draw as widely from the myriad cultural and musical resources at his disposal, in the process arriving at a perspective beyond boundaries—a singular “story” capable of including us all.
With a fine band on hand, including bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, both of whom have worked with Artmann before, there’s plenty of talent to weave the various threads of the music together. Pianist Laszlo Gardony shares Artmann’s stylistic adventurousness, and his rhythmic flexibility is crucial to “The Noctambulist,” which pivots sharply from relaxed swing into a more assertive odd-meter groove that allows Gardony the chance to stretch out. And the addition of vocalist Elena McEntire breathes extra life into three of the cuts, including the aforementioned “Amazing Grace,” where her steady, unadorned delivery is perfect in conveying the emotional power of the piece, and “Earthling,” where her wordless vocals float airlessly atop the track’s funk-based foundation.
The music is solidly jazz-based, but Artmann’s classical training remains apparent, particularly through the disciplined rigor he brings to his instrument. He unfurls an especially well-crafted solo within the disarmingly tricky structure of “Quixote,” and even when he climbs to his most intense emotional peaks, as on “Pan’s Blues,” he never loses control or succumbs to self-indulgence. In keeping with his overarching vision to find unity amidst diversity, Artmann’s warm, ingratiating sound and broadminded concept should expand his audience.