KRONIX is the duo project of Peter Van Huffel and Alex Maksymiw. It highlights the two performers as unique individual musicians and as strong intellectual composers. The repertoire performed by the duo consists predominantly of their own compositions, many of which have been adapted to this setting from original larger ensemble formats. This is reflective, rhythmic, energetic and exploratory music, performed by two truly gifted musicians who work together in perfect symbiosis. Although both native Canadians who attended the same college for musical studies, Van Huffel and Maksymiw first performed together in the Ukraine and Poland at the end of 2012. They have been working together as a duo since Maksymiws move to Berlin in the summer of 2013, where Van Huffel has resident since 2008.
"Hailing from Canada, but now calling Berlin home base, saxophonist Peter Van Huffel and guitarist Alex Maksymiw (Marcus Strickland) are radiant stars in the progressive jazz universe. As a solo artist, Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask band and similar undertakings have been wowing jazz audiences with a high-impact and kinetic modus operandi. And Maksymiw's Without a Word (Double Moon, 2015) features formidable saxophonist Marcus Strickland and is a program devised on the guitarist's perceptive compositional approach, tasteful riffs, strong soloing and ability to say more with less.
Diversity is a strategic factor here. For example, on "Excerpt Two" the duo generates an ethereal soundscape, aided by Van Huffel's echo-infused and dreamy lines amid Maksymiw's easy-going gait, but they follow-up with a modern mainstream flow on "Slow Burn," sculpted by the guitarist's walking chord phrasings and the saxophonist's linear movements. Yet the plot thickens with "Anyhow," as the musicians work through a free-form groove, amped by Maksymiw's distortion-tinged notes, leading to complex odd-metered unison choruses and a rapid-fire attack.
The artists meld tricky time signatures with mind-bending segments via spot on accuracy and great depth. They also delve into some experimentation on "Happenstance," where Van Huffel's echoing and breathy notes buoyantly ride atop Maksymiw's chop chords with a gently swirling backdrop, casting notions of time standing still. And they close it out with a contrasting free-jazz alternate take on "Anyhow" during "Anyhow / Alternate Take." It's irrefutably obvious that the musicians' lengthy musical association and like-minded goals yield numerous rewards throughout this stirring encounter."
Glenn Astarita (March 27, 2016)
"Peter Van Huffel is a Berlin-based alto saxophonist who many readers might recognize for his work in Gorilla Mask (a high-octane, thrash-jazz outfit) and the Boom Crane Trio. Alex Maksymiw is a guitarist who has played with various groups and orchestras, and last year’s Without a Word found him occupying the “leader” role for the second time in his steadily-accelerating career. Although the two have been playing together for around three years, Kronix marks their first recorded meeting - and what a meeting it is! Fans of Gorilla Mask should not expect the same scuffed-up intensity of that group; Kronix is more contemplative, more pensive, but it lacks none of the fire that one can hear in spades on albums like 2014’s Bite My Blues (see the review above). Instead of the uncontrolled, white-hot flames of that record, though, we get a muted glow - the fire has been subdued a bit, left to smolder.
“The Charmers” opens with an admittedly charming theme from Van Huffel, free-wheeling and joyous, and accompanied by Maksymiw’s circular slides, up-and-down the fretboard. It’s a lovely way to open the album, but it doesn’t exactly set the tone for the melancholic batch of tunes that follows: “Excerpt Two” finds Van Huffel augmenting a forlorn stream of notes with echo effects, approximating a lone cry in a cave. Of course, he’s not in complete solitude - Maksymiw is there to provide the reverb-laden equivalent of a Greek chorus, mirroring the drama of Van Huffel’s saxophone with his own desolate musings. “Slow Burn” is similar in some ways, but adds an extra dose of, yes, slow-burning tension. “The Dreamer,” a track which originally appeared on Maksymiw’s album of the same name, is here stripped down to its essence, becoming a twilit dirge of sorts.
To be sure, it’s not all anxiety and desolation. On “Anyhow,” Maksymiw utilizes distortion to great effect, lending a wild urgency to Van Huffel’s swirling stream of notes. Likewise, “Petrichor” features the same crunching, hard-hitting riffage, but here it’s interspersed with moments of crisp, clean lines and Van Huffel’s terse explorations. “Fuse,” the final standalone composition (there’s an alternate take of “Anyhow” tacked on), sounds just like its name suggests - a tiny spark that swells into a flame, and finally detonates in a cascade of echoes from Van Huffel’s sax.
Kronix doesn’t make any grand statements, and it doesn’t break any boundaries, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a concise collection of tunes that is, at times, downright beautiful. Highly recommend to those who like their jazz on the more meditative side - but I’m willing to bet that even fans of the wild, explosive Gorilla Mask will find something to love here."
Derek Stone (April 1, 2016)
"Encore une histoire de copains qui se perdent de vue et se retrouvent en ayant beaucoup de choses à se dire car, entre temps, chacun a suivi un chemin musical riche et constructif.
Sacrée histoire de musiciens baladeurs. Ils ont suivi leurs études musicales dans le même collège au Canada mais Alex Maksymiw a été attiré, loin de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique vers ses racines ukrainiennes. De son côté, Peter Van Huffel a suivi un chemin quasi similaire pour aller s’installer à Berlin en 2008. C’est en Ukraine et en Pologne que les deux canadiens ont ébauché ce duo il y a un peu plus de trois ans. Aujourd’hui, à Berlin, Kronix est devenu une entité duelle et ce duo possède un registre et un potentiel musical et sonore tout à fait captivants comme le prouve ce disque. Ces deux là ne manquent ni de ressources ni d’imagination : la technicité de leur jeu instrumental est constamment au service de leur musique aux couleurs et aux textures changeantes.
Voilà six ans (déjà !) que nous suivons le parcours escarpé et contrasté suivi par le saxophoniste Peter Van Huffel. Depuis le quartet de «Like the Rusted Key» jusqu’au trio Boom Crane en passant par le punk-jazz de Gorilla Mask... Alex Maksymiw, lui, est une découverte plus récente avec un disque très solide, «Without a word», mais aussi dans le quartet du contrebassiste ukrainien, Konstantin Ionenko. L’un comme l’autre ne nous a jamais laissé indifférent et réunis dans ce duo, ils font vraiment la somme de leurs talents pour nous proposer une déclinaison moderne du dialogue sur le terrain du jazz, libre mais contrôlée où la musique sait aussi jouer avec le silence, où la force du jeu sait aussi se murmurer. Une réussite."
Thierry Giard (24 Mars, 2016)
"A duet for saxophone and guitar can truly become a problem. Countless are the perils deriving from the vainglorious outpourings of average performers, which in the case of these specific instruments are usually summarized by the world-famous exclamation “too many notes”. If the protagonist’s genealogy lies somewhere between math rock and modern jazz, the threat of Boredom with the capital B turns into tangible annoyance more often than not.
Van Huffel and Maksymiw steered clear of these issues with ease. For starters, they mostly play upon compositions, including some that were originally conceived for a larger instrumental setup. This element alone warrants a layer of lucidity to begin with. Then again, the duo wisely chose to diversify their music’s ecosystem from a track to another – sometimes even within a single piece – thus preventing the listener from descending into the classic “same stuff, slightly modified” mental groove. They astutely amalgamate timbral components and effects, combining dry tones and echoing resonances. Ultimately, the repertoire is alluring enough to sustain the duration of a whole set.
A favorite of mine is “The Dreamer”, where Van Huffel picks useful pitches from the ground of intelligible tunefulness to scatter them across a canvas of magnetizing chords and divergent clusters plucked by Maksymiw. In other places, such as the initial “The Charmer” or “Petrichor”, the pair run all over less accessible paths replete with odd-metered twists and Fripp-ish (read: clean-toned and angular) arpeggios. “Happenstance” is a moderately mysterious episode, small doses of dissonance spicing an otherwise rather calm environment. Any way you look at it, Kronix is an album that keeps good company, definitely sober yet rich of lively spurts."
Massimo Ricci (March 8, 2016)
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