Andrew Kratzat Quartet
Off the beaten path
The band's lineup is your first clue. When the Andrew Kratzat Quartet performs at the Kerrytown Concert House on Wednesday, March 10, they won't be offering a night of conventional or traditional jazz. Aside from Kratzat on double bass, the ensemble is comprised of saxophonists Andrew Bishop and Daniel Fisher-Lochhead and pianist Matt Endhal--a grouping that's a bit off the beaten path. And speaking of the beaten path, where is the drummer? When was the last time you heard a jazz quartet without drums?
It's not that Kratzat has an aversion to drums or drummers. His 2008 debut CD, The Dentist, features them on more than half the tracks. Rather, this adventurous and thoughtful young player says he has long been interested in ensembles that are "missing one of their key components. This has in the past meant not including a chordal instrument, such as piano or guitar, which has given me the freedom to really play with the harmony. Acoustically, [Kerrytown Concert House] fits more sustained instruments like piano, and dropping the drums will make it easier to be more free rhythmically."
Kratzat's playing draws on the work of two of his primary influences, bassists Charlie Haden and Larry Grenadier, players who are not, as he puts it, "Bebop--chops-aholics, but instead lead with melodic intuition." Which is not to say that Kratzat's lacking in chops. Everything on his CD--whether with full band or on spare duets with violinist extraordinaire Jeremy Kittel, or on a unique vocals-and-bass duo treatment of Jimmy Rowles' famous instrumental "The Peacocks"--amply illustrates Kratzat's ability to lay down lush, out-of-the-ordinary harmonies as well as rhythmic underpinnings that are noteworthy for technical intricacy and compelling propulsion.
His compositions also march to a different beat and showcase far more than traditional walking bass lines. His evolving voice, springing from wide listening, especially to the works of Ornette Coleman, Tim Berne, and Gyoergy Ligeti, expresses itself in hypnotic ostinatos, complex polyrhythms, and sometimes in gorgeous lyric melodies.
already in another drummerless band, the Hot Club of Detroit, though they frequently do rely on a percussive rhythm guitar. Kratzat is flexible enough to fit into that Gypsy jazz sound and a wide variety of other styles and genres. The 2006 U-M music school graduate has performed with, or is currently gigging with, among others, Kittel, the group Millish, James Carter, and Sam Barsh. Kratzat's versatile enough to jam with just about anyone, but he's particularly looking forward to working with this quartet, reshaping compositions he's performed and recorded in other configurations, as well as exploring his more recent pieces.
[Originally published in March, 2010.]