Aros: Train Song

Aros: Train Song

Songlines  SGL SA1546-2

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid


"Train Song"

Rob Armus (tenor sax)
Marion von Tilzer (piano)
John Korsrud (trumpet)
Anne Wood (violin)
Sven Schuster (contrabass)
Alan Purves (percussion)

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DSD recording

2+5.0, recorded and mixed in DSD
Reviews (1)

Review by Mark Werlin - March 4, 2016

Train Song is the second and final recording made by the group Aros, a multinational ensemble comprised of Netherlands-based Austrian Marion von Tilzer (composer, piano), Canadians Rob Armus (composer, tenor sax) and John Korsrud (trumpet), Scots Anne Wood (violin) and Alan Purves (percussion), and German Sven Schuster (contrabass). The group were organized by von Tilzer and Armus in the Netherlands in 1999, and recorded their first disc for Willem Breuker's BVHAAST label. Over the four years of the ensemble's tenure, the busy members of the group found time among all their other musical commitments to perform regularly in Holland and tour in Europe and Canada.

On Train Song, Aros performs a set of original compositions by Armus and Von Tilzer that blend elements of jazz, 20th-century European classical music, American minimalism and Argentinean tango; the result is compelling new music. The SACD was recorded direct to DSD in Hilversum, Holland, November 9-10, 2002, mixed to 5.0 and 2.0 in the spring and summer of 2003, and mastered at the Sony SACD Project in Boulder, Colorado.

The careful rehearsal and planning that went into the recording, and the range of the ensemble's stylistic inspirations is immediately evident in the opening track by Rob Armus. A multipart composition that begins with a call-and-response dialogue between the saxophone and trumpet, "Zimbabwe" evokes the African melodies popularized by South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and the rhythmic drive of Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti's large-ensemble Egypt 80. As the piece transitions into its second part, Armus introduces a feature that recurs in many of his tunes, the use of Steve Reich/Philip Glass-style minimalist arpeggios. The third section showcases Armus' post-Coltrane jazz soloing. He is a technically skilled tenorist who plays with cool discipline even in free-blowing mode, as here. A rising melodic figure by the two horns over a brief percussion solo brings the piece to a strong climax.

"Road Song" shifts the tone into European territory. A lilting 6/8 minor-key dance tune suggestive of French musette provides violinist Anne Wood the framework for a dramatic solo. Wood has performed and recorded in numerous pop, classical and world music projects. She digs into her solo with fearless inventiveness, displaying formidable technique and a warm string tone, ably supported by von Tilzer's delicate piano accompaniment.

Von Tilzer's "Four 'n' a Half" demonstrates the wide dynamic range offered by original DSD recording. It's an exercise in bravura pianism, played up and down the keyboard from ppp to fff, presented with strikingly realistic impact. The engineers close-mic'd the piano and spread its image wider than in most classical music piano recordings, but the approach works to the music's overall presentation. The drums are set somewhat back in the (two-channel) mix and the piano functions percussively in this and several of the other pieces. The lowest notes of the instrument are presented with clarity and punch, emphasizing the machine force of the piano mechanism.

The Argentinean composer/bandoneon virtuoso Astor Piazzola made a series of extraordinary recordings and concert appearances in the late 1980s, the final years of his life, that carried his musical influence from the Americas into the heart of Europe. Rob Armus' "Tango" recalls the melancholy strains of Piazzola's melodies and features violinist Wood's expressive soloing.

Trumpet player John Korsrud emerges from his mostly ensemble role in the moody "Ostinato." A bandleader (Hard Rubber Orchestra) and composer in his own right, Korsrud produces a classical, bell-like tone that sails over the densely-textured arrangement.

In the unaccompanied piano introduction to her piece "Fugatisme", Marion von Tilzer displays a profound grasp of modern jazz piano idiom in the lineage of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. But jazz was the road not taken, judging from her subsequent projects: collaborations with Indian vocalist Neela Bhagwat; performing in the ensemble "AhimsA" with singer Sandhya Sanjana; and most recently, contributing to "Secret Key Masters" for Challenge Records (Gees / Ehlhart / von Tilzer: Extempore (Secret Key Masters) - Gees / Ehlhart / von Tilzer). All the more fortunate that "Train Song" preserves recorded evidence of her skillful and lyrical jazz playing.

The Aros SACD was a one-off project for Songlines. Label founder Tony Reif, a former film programmer at Vancouver's Pacific Cinémathèque, invested a generous monetary inheritance into a small-scale but persistently imaginative audiophile-oriented recording company. Vancouver enjoys a lively fine arts scene that attracts musicians from Great Britain, France and the US. Many of the Songlines artists have recorded several discs for the label, but "Train Song" is the only project for the members of Aros individually or collectively that Songlines has released.

The musical direction of Train Song has similarities to recordings on the Challenge label, in particular, the work of Challenge artists Maarten Ornstein and Tony Overwater. Jazz SACD collectors who appreciate the music of Ornstein, Overwater and Wim Kegel on Tony Overwater Trio: Jungle Boldie will certainly enjoy this set of well-rehearsed, skillfully performed, emotionally engaging new music.

Copyright © 2016 Mark Werlin and


Sonics (Stereo):

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