(self-produced, 1998)

J.E.R.M. is a self-titled jazz CD whose group name is created by the first-name initials of the four globally diverse individuals in the band. The 10 tracks from this quartet can easily be subcategorized as improvisational jazz.

The "J" comes from Jacob William. Originally from Madras, India, Jacob plays bass. He penned three of the compositions performed on J.E.R.M.. "Monkis Vindaloo" and "Schloenvogt's Shoe in Beck's Brew" are a little more lively than most of the selections on the album. This contrasts greatly with his third piece, "Backwaters," which is very subdued by comparison.

The "E" is Ed Nicholson, who was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Ed did not contribute to the writing of any of the tracks, but plays drums and, on the last track, "Swiss G's #2," a toy piano while guest musician Stephen Kontrimas takes over the drums.

"R" is for Rolf Schloenvogt, a native of Germany. Rolf contributes his talents on the tenor saxophone. He, like Jacob, supplies three tracks to the CD including "9/27/97 Quartet," "Wherever You Go" and "9/27/07 Trio #2." All three selections are rather mellow.

Finally, the "M" comes from Michael Beck. Michael, whose roots are in Switzerland, tickles the ivory for J.E.R.M. and wrote the remaining four tracks: "Pleasure Bay," "Swiss G's," "Wind Dreams" and "Swiss G's #2."

J.E.R.M., as you can see, is an international jazz band. Their playing style is very improvisational. In fact, it is hard to find a melody that lasts more than a couple seconds before the music takes a turn in another direction. Every time I listen to the CD, I wonder if they could actually play the same tunes without any variation. I would guess not as randomness seems to be a core piece of their musical style.

I can easily imagine these four gentlemen drinking (a lot) and playing off each other as they go -- trying to figure out what the other musicians are going to try next. Described another way, this music sounds like a 45-minute warm-up jam session. I am not very impressed. I realize that by its very nature jazz is improvisational -- each musician puts their own touch into whatever tune they are playing. But, at least you can normally follow a tune, regardless of how uniquely an individual musician contributes. I cannot do this with these 10 selections. I cannot follow any of the melodies as they meander, jump, stop cold and then dash off in directions unknown.

Perhaps I am a little biased. I like old style, 1920s and '30s jazz. I also enjoy more modern standard jazz. I do not, however, care much for J.E.R.M. I have to admit that they sound a little too unprepared to me -- that they have no idea what they are going to play until after they have played it. I can only guess that there are some lovers of this style of jazz out there (other than Jacob, Ed, Rolf and Michael). Are you one of them?

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 11 January 2003