In Mellowtonin, a coinage of Johannes Enders’s that serves as the title of this fantastic quartet’s second CD, and in the drawn-out articulation with which Billy Hart pronounces ‘me-lo-dy’, resonate gentleness. Associations with melatonin, the hormone that controls the human circadian rhythm, also shine through. The production of the hormone depends on the alternation between light and darkness. Physicians have trouble applying it in accordance with standards and routines.
Standards and routines are also alien to this music, which follows up the splendidly balladesque ‘Billy Rubin’ with more tempo. Moods are mixed with great variety on a broad palette of, to continue the image, day and night sides. But because this is a typical Enders CD, events do not spiral out of control when they become more exciting. Not that there is a lack of spontaneity: on the contrary. Everything is concentrated in the instant, in the point of the now, out of which it develops.
Johannes Enders has individualised his tenor tone along the axis of New York–Weilheim–Graz–Leipzig. On this CD, probably his best quartet yet, this tone comes to bear impressively, swings upwards and interlaces with a cogent band concept.
Everywhere through the balanced tones shimmer diverse backgrounds and socialisations. But from these Enders has distilled his very own. Trace elements of American ancestors glint through, ranging from Stan Getz to John Coltrane, and also a weakness for a perhaps not so blissful hippie period. Yet Enders does not sound like a copy of any of his models. He sounds like an original in his now classic phase. He sounds like the arrival of the greatest possible result after various departures. The unobtrusive gentleness, devoid of facile swagger and escapism, sounds wise and beautiful. It has about it something grave, which reposes in itself in a spiritual way. Soulfulness rather than standard and routine, passionate emotion rather than cribbed mass product. Now roughened idylls, now urgent energized tempo, borne constantly by a fascinating improvisational finesse, casual power, elasticity and relevance.
In its confident calmness, this music breasts the age and its spirit. Its elegant flow is an effective antidote to zapping and infotainment. Sometimes a lot less must happen in order to create space, to build tension and to maintain it. Music then becomes solace against the chaotic higher-faster-further. The cosmos of this band is a serendipity. Billy Hart, in possession of a vast experience, can charge up on unspent resources at any moment; Milan Nicholic, radiating his reliable, grounded presence; and Jean Paul Brodbeck, who makes the trio into an orchestra. At the core is the group sound, which emerges from the complete presence of the participants. It flows into a profound adventure of intimacy, in which the deeply human is still always superbly preserved while being transcended.