The history of jazz can be characterized as a non-violent battle for survival between the various instruments. In this art form the appearance of an immutable line-up of instruments that has outlasted the vagaries of time is illusory. Everything is specific to given periods of jazz history, everything is in transition. What today has an aura of eternity may tomorrow be relegated to the sidelines. The tuba, once responsible for the base notes, has been ousted by the double bass. The cornet has almost completely disappeared. And what of the clarinet? After the swing era it had to cede its place in the limelight. The saxophone, trumpet and piano have retained their dominance, while bass and percussion are still associated with the musical background — but who knows where they will be a few decades from now. Since the ’sixties exotic instruments have infiltrated the genre, and the ethnic movement has attracted attention to cultures remote from the urban world of jazz. Today we can look back to Alice Coltrane on the harp and Guy Klucevsek on the accordeon. Cognoscenti are also familiar with Rufus Harley, who squeezed the Scottish bagpipes, and Steve Turre, who uses sea shells to express his musical thinking. Meanwhile, classical instruments like the French horn, oboe or bassoon have found acceptance in the jazz family.
Christian Gruber-Ruesz, too, immerses us in a world of instrumental by-ways. True, the broad stylistic thrust of his music is familiar — Latin, funk, bebop, modal jazz, blues and gypsy swing. Yet Gruber-Ruesz sounds different. His perspective reaches far beyond these styles, is open to a variety of folk elements, and thus gives a personal slant to the jazz quartet. The Portuguese mandolin, the Greek bouzouki and the gypsy guitar alternate to produce unusual listening that sometimes recalls Vienna. Indeed, a contra-guitar also makes a guest appearance on two tracks. Gruber-Ruesz sees Vienna as a cultural and stylistic melting pot that symbolizes his aesthetic eclecticism. Incidentally, what you are hearing is a live recording and not the result of studio tinkering. Recorded at Vienna’s Aera café, the music takes its life from its air of spontaneity. Applause is audible, but only on two occasions. Gruber-Ruesz set out to create a wide musical span of the type found in a symphony. In formal terms, Live in Aera reminds me of a suite, but that will probably be all the same to listeners once they have been captivated by the stylistic range of this production. Which is all to the good.
The world turned upside down! Portuguese mandolin meets modal jazz, blues meets bouzouki … In Sunny Christian Gruber-Ruesz creates a pot pourri that the listener is happy to take as it comes. - Ljubisa Tosic
Christian Gruber-Ruesz: mandoline, gypsy-guitar, bouzouki
Roland Guggenbichler: piano, keyboard
Karl Sayer: kontrabass
Oliver Krammer: drums
Peter Havlicek: kontra gitarre