Quiet Notes and the Fascination of What’s Complex
Creative Sources CS 399 CD

Human endeavors are built on cooperation and interaction. While the lone genius is celebrated few things are ever accomplished unless that person shares his or her ideas with others. It’s the same with (improvised) music. With very few exceptions the most profound creations are the result of small group collaborations. And as a rule of thumb the more players involved – up to about five – the better the outcome. That’s how this two-CD set evolves. Although Quiet Notes, matching the bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, cornet of Kralling-based Udo Schindler with trombonist Matthias Müller from Berlin offers three fine instances of in-the-moment, instantaneously reactive improvisations, it’s exceeded by the nearly hour-long program which adds the guitar and electronics of Munich-based Gunnar Geisse to the mix. Not only does the performance, recorded the following day, validate the horn players increased comfort with each others’ idea, but the addition of a third element allows each person’s contributions a better display.

Schindler, who has matched wits with any number of German and international musicians and Müller, often found in the company of saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert, are decades apart in age but share similar interest in timbral investigation, Contrapuntally their tongue and mouth jujitsu involves tones that range from growls to squeaks, plus air strained so thinly though body tubes and bells that it nearly disappears, or is expressed with such ample force that it’s the equivalent of a dirigible inflating. Pauses, pecks, sniffs and digs are part of this duet, with Müller more likely to reveal expected slide-affiliated identities than Schindler, who works with common tropes from his reed collection. By the final “Starting a Risky Journey”, Müller distinctively shakes out gutbucket slurs and plunger growls which almost define traditional trombone story telling. In contrast Schindler’s improvising becomes more abstract, sliming his lines and tonguing out contralto bites. Both hold onto tones as long as possible before they finally shatter. Eventually though, bubbly brass notes and reed squeaks coalesce into tandem cries that connect without diminishing individual sound paths.

Geisse, who has worked with associates ranging from Vinko Globokar to Barry Guy, judiciously manipulates his table-top guitar so that it adds not one but two additional textures to the trio improvisation. Besides flanges, twangs and picking that emanate from guitar strings, oscillating wave forms and crackling drones that roam across the performances background make their presence felt. Wavering shills and puffs from the reedist and snarling yaps and blurts from the trombonist coupled with slurred guitar fingering protrude, as polyphonic processing provides a steady base. Additionally there are instances where it appears that Geisse wants to play both folk and Metal licks, forcing the horns to trifle with conventional call-and-response. By the mid-point, with bolstered electronic processing taking up space, Schindler’s and Müller’s mouse-like squeaks almost disappear. Taking a cue from the guitarist’s subsequent knife-like string slashes, the two combine and inflate tones. From that point on, until the finale, the piece explodes into a multiphonic showcase. Geisse triggers a collection of processed vocal choir and orchestral samples complete with bell-pealing, so that the climax features the three asserting themselves and defining the themes as timbres fade. The second CD is a notable instance of what three experienced improvisers can accomplish without preconceptions in real time. Plus the duo tracks aren’t bad ether.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Dried-up, Half-Full of Leaves 2. Creatures of Habit, Ready to Click 3. Starting a Risky Journey CD2: 1. The Fascination of What’s Complex*

Personnel: Matthias Müller (trombone); Udo Schindler (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, cornet) and Gunnar Geisse* (laptop guitar)