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Fricke’s Picks: Nik Batsch’s Ronin

There were moments — long, magnetic spells, actually — during a recent set by Nik Bartsch’s Ronin at Joe’s Pub in New York when the Swiss instrumental quintet seemed more like a double trio: two percussionists; a bassist and one band member exhaling low, sustained drones on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet; and Bärtsch on both acoustic and electric piano, one hand on each, playing hypnotic overlapping riffs that were more pulse than melody. The music was a subtle, accelerating excitement, a trance-fusion melting of the ’71 Pink Floyd, the ’68 Grateful Dead and the rhythm armies in Miles Davis’ electric bands — minus guitars and trumpet. There are no song titles on Ronin’s latest album, Holon (ECM), or 2006’s Stoa (ECM) — the tracks are numbered — because the colors, lift and flow in this fusion speak for themselves.

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