By Dave Cantor | Published December 2018
Some performers angle at updating the spiritual jazz template with nods to contemporary music. Kamasi Washington’s rightly been lauded for invigorating the style with modern flair and the feel of life in Southern California. But Ibiza, Spain-based Muriel Grossmann has taken a different tact.
Instead of working to reflect contemporary culture, the saxophonist relates some ecstatic inner-state through strains of music that almost are indistinguishable from her forbearers’ concoctions. Joined by a cast of players Grossmann has been working with—in some cases—for about a decade, the quartet unleashes seven shimmering cuts on both the LP and CD versions of Golden Rule, with an extended take of John Coltrane’s “Traneing In” filling out the vinyl. Grossman’s interpretation of the tune kicks up the original’s tempo a bit and removes it from its all-acoustic origins as the bandleader splices in the galactic spirituality found in Trane’s later work.
While switching between alto and soprano, and offering up a spate of originals, Grossman is well-supported by Radomir Milojkovic’s lustrous guitar work. On “Core,” a wild uptempo and dramatic affair, the guitarist follows Grossmann’s solo, refusing to back away from the energy already coursing through the band’s 11-minute excursion. Here, Milojkovic nestles into repetitive riffs, only to find a way out and onto a related run every few moments.
While combustible displays from Grossmann and her troupe aren’t tough to pick out here, it’s a pair of quiet, contemplative tracks—“Direction” and “Light”—that exhibit the bandleader’s unbound belief in the players assembled for Golden Rule. It’s not quite group improv on that latter track, but somehow as the quartet mumbles its way through the song, a collective energy absent from the rest of album breaches the accumulated vibe to offer listeners a peaceful coda to an otherwise explosive recording.