Live in Prague 2017
POW Records CD 04


Frames & Terrains

NoBusiness NBLP 114

Someone who has been part of numerous Free Jazz aggregations since the early 1980s, Dortmund-based percussionist Martin Blume is the constituent element that unites these recent sessions. Both are with working groups and filled out with an international cast of exemplary improvisers. Live in Prague 2017 is a trio with Dutch tenor saxophonist Luc Houtkamp and London’s Steve Beresford, who plays piano and electronics. Recorded more than a year earlier in Köln, Frames & Terrains features Germans, bassist Dieter Manderscheid and pianist Achim Kaufmann as well as now Berlin-based tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Tobias Delius.

A meeting of equals, Houtkamp, Beresford and Blume are most expressive on the jokingly titled, nearly 35-minute “Ambiguous & Incomprehensible” and a short encore. With oscillated wave forms juddering distantly, the three’s instrumental contradictions take the form of rim-shot clattering and drum top squeaks, clinking keyboard chords and a cornucopia of stuttering cries and flutter tongued plastic whistle-like peeps from Houtkamp. A known disrupter, the pianist livens up the show mid-way through by throwing some pseudo rock’n’roll phrasing into the mix. This gesture soon escalates to hands flapping all over the keyboard, while picking out a Blues-Rock melody to burlesque the pianist’s inner Jerry Lee Lewis at the same time. With the sequences now undulating vertically as much as they move horizontally, the saxophonist’s prodigious technique upticks as well with a “Reveille”–like wrench that soon turns to sharpened growls and tongue-slapping, and that is met at every juncture by tonal role-playing from Beresford that adds a light swing feel to propulsive cadenzas. As Houtkamp’s a capella snorts and split tones are paralleled by the pianist seemingly outlaying an upside down version of “Honky Tonk”, it’s Blume’s nerve beats and bell clanking that corrals the yelping sax snarls into become measured reed breaths and overall transports the jagged challenges into a connective conclusion.

Segmented into two tracks of almost equal length and with the addition of a bassist, the quartet disc has the same sort of interactive feeling among the players, but is angled in a unique manner. Besides the characteristic pulses and place markings from Blume, Manderscheid’s aggressive but moderated thumps become progressively more important and noticeable as the concert progresses. With the pianist and saxophonist confident enough to express themselves in lengthening phraseology, it’s the bassist and drummer who keep the tracks rhythmically solid enough so that the descriptive narratives have an underpinning on which to unroll.

With his experience in ensembles ranging from the ICP Orchestra to freewheeling combos, Delius advances the sounds with expressive gambits, alternating storytelling and squeaks. Kaufmann also bubbles the sonic stew, at points stirring in high frequency glissandi and at others using delicate vibes-like plinks. On “Frames & Terrains (Part 1)” it’s the drummer’s situated clip-clops and gong-like rumbles which set up the moderated finale, with the bassist’s swelling Arco buzzes and the saxophonist’s breathy melodiousness completing the thoughts. A completion of the first track, but more whimsical and slower paced, “Frames & Terrains (part 2)” is also more dissonant. Crushing blows and press rolls from Blume plus stream roller-like cadenzas from Kaufmann stack up against Delius’ needle-thin blurts, snorts and whistles. Here again sul ponticello creaks from Manderscheid’s strings plus affiliated sweeping pianism corral other timbres into a swelling crescendo for a final surge of collaborative polyphony.

Perhaps not the best-known European drummer, veteran Blume proves that properly located input can contribute markedly to successful improvisations. And he has plenty of equally sympathetic partners to confirm that on these discs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Ambiguous & Incomprehensible 2. Clear As Mud

Personnel: Live: Luc Houtkamp (tenor saxophone); Steve Beresford (piano and electronics) and Martin Blume (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Frames: 1. Frames & Terrains (Part 1) 2. Frames & Terrains (part 2)

Personnel: Frames: Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Achim Kaufmann (piano); Dieter Manderscheid (bass) and Martin Blume (drums and percussion)