Aron Ottignon is a jazz/alternative/electronic musician who specializes in making me listen to his tunes 17 times in a row because they’re so damn groovy. A native of Auckland, Ottignon quickly established himself as one of the most promising pianists from New Zealand, and he now resides in France. Together with Rodi Kirk on electronics and Samuel Dubois on percussion, Ottignon delivers one of the most original tunes I’ve heard in a while, “Waterfalls,” by mixing various elements of jazz and electronic music.
What immediately jumps out at you from this performance is the astonishingly SICK groove. Made up of a piano figure that swings hard and a hip electronic beat, this groove is guaranteed to get you moving. It could not be more appropriate for “Waterfalls” to have been performed at The Funkhaus Berlin – this joint is funky. To be honest, I am usually not a fan of live electronic performances; it takes a very specific set of circumstances to keep me entertained. This tune, however, goes above and beyond to keep a smile on my face and my head bopping.
My favorite aspect of “Waterfalls” is the emphasis on thematic variation. Instead of developing an intricate melody, Ottignon & company focus on one short theme, and they do not stray from that musical theme for the duration of the piece. This “live looping” draws on elements of classic hip-hop DJ’ing, free jazz, and 20th century minimalism. So yea… quite a lot to take in here. The very idea of “looping” in a live setting is so impressive to me that I couldn’t help but notice how Ottignon basically sounds like he’s continuously playing the piano from start to finish, as if he actually was a pre-recorded loop.
In addition to this intriguing loop aesthetic, the use of percussion adds an extra layer of uniqueness; it provides the perfect amount of novelty to pique the listener’s interest. And, as if I wasn’t already riveted by this performance, the band launches a key change right before 1:40 that had me like this. This song is a trip, from the first utterance of the piano riff to the final breakdown into what may be called “controlled chaos.”