Albert Mangelsdorff

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Joe Fiedler

Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff

Clean Feed CF 049CD

Generally credited as the first European trombonist who by the 1960s had talents that were equal to or superior to American jazzers, Frankfurt native Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005) evolved from being a top-ranked bopper to flirting with the avant garde and fusion in the 1970s, The result by the time of his death, was a matchless amalgam of all those styles in his playing.

Although acknowledged as a major stylist as early as 1962, when he recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet’s pianist John Lewis, this CD by New York trombonist Joe Fiedler is the first recorder tribute the German master of multiphonics. It’s no macabre cash-in either. For Fiedler, whose experience encompasses bands as disparate as Latin- Jazz group Timbalaye, pianist Andrew Hill’s sextet and Philip Johnson’s Fast and Bulbous, recorded the just-released session in November 2003.

Serendipitously, a set of never-before available tracks by a Mangelsdorff’s 1979 trio appears. Backed by veteran Swiss drummer Pierre Favre, known for his work with pianist Irène Schweizer; and Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, who now combines traditional folk music and improv; it’s the same configuration as Fiedler’s trio. The trombonist and his associates – bassist John Herbert, who also plays in Hill’s band and drummer Mark Ferber, who has worked with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith – are probably even younger than the Triplicity trio was in 1979. Yet a side-to-side comparison of the two CDs causes neither to suffer.

Ironically, it’s Fiedler, on the aptly-titled “Do Your Own Thing” and the exposition of “Mayday Hymn”, who plays the sort of unaccompanied, multiphonic extravaganza that the older trombonist perfected after his solo display at a 1972 Munich festival. On the first tune, Fiedler reveals grunting split tones, extended with passing vibrations while maintaining a polyrhythmic beat. Preceding the drummer’s and bassist’s entry with patterned hand drumming and sul ponticello strokes, on “Mayday Hymn”, the boneman unveils polyphonic excesses and subterranean growls, letting his abrasive grace notes flow into every sound crevice.

“Zores Mores” even goes further than Mangelsdorff could have imagined. Sounding as if his notes have been shoved through a sequencer – and highlighting with tremolo and legato – Fiedler appears to be playing in double counterpoint with himself. Many other tracks are free-bop lines par excellence, floating on Herbert’s stalwart walking and Ferber’s cadenced cymbal smacks and ratamacues. Combined with the trombonist’s sputtering textures, many of these compositions morph into finger-snappers.

Fiedler’s experience performing with Afro-Cuban stars such as Tito Puente and Nestor Torres also serves him well here, as he adds a Latin tinge to “Now Jazz Ramwong”, an Asiatic tinged piece Mangelsdorff wrote after a tour of the Far East. On top of Ferber’s cross-handed paradiddles, the brassman’s internalized rhythms intensify his blustery tones.

Moving from the honorer to the honoree, what strikes you most about Triplicity is how the trombonist mixes traditional roots with advanced techniques without calling undue attention to himself. And the bassist and drummer follow right along.

Take “Subconscious Skylark” for instance, where his note replication initially fastens on double counterpoint with Andersen. Then when the bassist turns to sul tasto bowing, Mangelsdorff introduces spittle-encrusted prestissimo tone rows, and then triple- tongued triplets and squeals. Favre contributes flashing polyrhythmic rustles as the bassist counters with rasgueado-like rhythms. Layering his pitchsliding solo with one curved triplet after another, the trombonist revels in brassy falsetto buzzes and vibrating triple tonguing. As cross patterns roll from the drum top, Mangelsdorff proffers a final recap of trills and plunger emphasis.

These techniques can also be put to use on more atmospheric numbers like “Green Shadows into Blue” or the raucous “Outhouse” – both written by the bassist. Nearly a nocturne, the first piece features Favre’s press rolls filling the space behind Andersen’s blunt slaps that flamboyantly stretch the strings, eventually revealing flamenco patterning. Confining himself initially to rubato romantic trills, the trombonist ends with a flurry of triple buzzed and tongued notes.

An odd blowsy, bluesy romp from someone identified with the glacial Scandinavian sound, “Outhouse” finds the bass man alternating between flat-picking claw-hammer licks and an extensive walking solo à la Scott LaFaro. Favre’s ruffs toughen the backbeat and among Mangelsdorff’s waterfall of sounds are buzzy chromatic triplets and quadruple-tongued grace notes. Elsewhere his split-tone response is such that without overdubbing the trombonist limns two parallel lines – vibrated, pedal-point tremolos alternated with higher-pitched brays.

However it’s with the 14-minute plus “Warbling Warbler” that Mangelsdorff really exhibits his skills. Based on birdsong which he recorded and listened to at various speeds, the piece is alive with presto and lento variations. As andante capillary tones echo past the slide into sine wave reverb and single-note extensions, he purrs triplets, occasionally hitting freak high-pitched notes – but not enough to create atonality. Meantime Andersen’s speedily keeps steady time, while Favre’s pummelling rolls and ratcheting cymbals add the necessary coloration. Introducing an assortment of cross-handed ruffs and flams, the percussionist joins with the andante walking bass lines to provide ballast behind the trombonist’s aviary-like triple tonguing and heavily vibrated growls. Considering the coda is a cistern-deep exhalation, perhaps some of the warblers were of eagle size or larger.

Triplicity is another reminder of the late German trombonist’s power, while Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff is a fitting memorial to a master stylist.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Triplicity: 1. Triplicity 2. Soulbird 3. Warbling Warbler 4. Outhouse 5. Virgin Green of Spring 6. Green Shadows into Blue 7. Subconscious Skylark 8. Brief Impressions of Brighton 9. Perpetual Lineations 10. Ancore Ex Tempore

Personnel: Triplicity: Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone); Arild Andersen (bass); Pierre Favre (drums)

Track Listing: Plays: 1. Wheat Song 2. Rip Off 3. Now Jazz Ramwong 4. An Ant Steps on an Elephant’s Toe 5. Mayday Hymn 6. Lapwing 7. Zores Mores 8. Wart G’Schwind 9. Do Your Own Thing

Personnel: Plays: Joe Fiedler (trombone); John Herbert (bass); Mark Ferber (drums)