Hayden Prosser Credit: Patrick Desbrosses

This spring Berlin-based British bassist Hayden Prosser released his debut, a quartet album called Tether (Whirlwind), and its aesthetic is unmistakably European: though the record is modern jazz played on a high level, it dispenses with the tried-and-true “theme and string of solos” structure. Prosser’s compositions develop elegantly, but rarely in straight lines—instead they flow through the sort of amorphous forms that thrive in European jazz these days. One member or another might sideswipe a moody melodic passage with a new idea, creating a musical interrogation that reroutes the whole band. Prosser, who’s just 27, cites as key influences electronic acts Plaid, Autechre, and Boards of Canada alongside vanguard improvisers Craig Taborn, Tim Berne, and Drew Gress, but those sources are filtered through the leader’s own lyric sensibility—he’s not directly biting the sounds of any of those folks.

Berne has had a profound impact in Europe over the past decade or so, especially with the music of his old quartet Bloodcount. That group’s drummer, Jim Black, has been especially influential on younger generations, and the German drummer on Tether, Max Santner, has clearly absorbed some of Black’s ideas—they play with a similar herky-jerky, off-the-beat swing, which makes their beats feel like a cart rolling on dented wheels. The pianist in the quartet is Elias Stemeseder, an Austrian based in New York who’s worked alongside Black in several strong bands. German tenor saxophonist Philipp Gropper is one Berlin’s most exciting younger players—he first made his name in Hyperactive Child, a trio with superb drummer Christian Lillinger—and he routinely locks in with Prosser or Stemeseder on corkscrewing unison passages that flow in and out of the lopsided grooves. At its best this quartet pushes the listener down several paths at once, creating a thrilling tension among the players even though they’re actually tightly in sync.

The piece “All,” which you can hear below, begins with an electronically modified piano arpeggio that shimmers and stutters as though the air trying to carry the sound were being shaken violently. The piece fans out from this initial flurry with driving, off-kilter rhythms and spectral melodies on piano and saxophone, which bob and weave like they don’t ever want to touch down.
Today’s playlist:

Third Coast Percussion, The Book of Keyboards (New Focus)
Otto, The Moon 1111 (Deckdisk)
Patrick Higgins & Josh Modney, Evrly Mvsic (NNA Tapes)
Sarah Cahill, Eighty Trips Around the Sun: Music by and for Terry Riley (Irritable Hedgehog)
Scott Wollschleger, Soft Aberration (New Focus)