KERN

Mittendrin
Creative Sources CS 469 CD

Taking on up the challenge of creating an effective musical program without the buttress of chordal instruments, are the members of the KERN trio. But alto saxophonist/clarinetist Edith Steyer, trombonist Matthias Müller and drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis are confident enough in their improvisations and varied enough in their sonic presentations that harmonic input is hardly needed. All young veterans of Berlin’s ongoing musical ferment, Greek-born Dimitriadis and Müller and Steyer from Zeven and Munich respectively, have experience playing in a variety of ensembles from the Splitter and Composers Orchestra to smaller groups featuring fellow sound explorers like Frank Paul Schubert and Floros Floridis.

Additionally the use of live and sampled preparations by Steyer adds another dimension, allowing the idea of two separate or sometimes complementary reed parts to be sensed in the performance. This salient feature is particularly impressive on “Hörts” where it appears as if both airy clarinet puffs and unperturbed saxophone breaths help build the energy already engendered by the trombonist’s gruff snarls and thickened snorts which creep across the narrative. Elsewhere, Steyer uses thin clarinet flutters to evoke merriment as on “Korallenriff” or narrowed alto saxophone peeps as on “Grasleben to propel sprawling cadences seconded by tick-tock drum beats. Taking full advantage of his horn’s lower register, Müller appears always ready to pump out gutbucket slurs as on “Wiegenlied für die Eltern schräger Kinder” which are then modified by a swinging but insistent drum beat and reed sluices. And the same dynamic is present on “Kirsch”, although here Müller’s hearty smears intersect with Steyer’s splashy tongue flutters as Dimitriadis’ beat moves from tough ruffs to comforting pops and multiple sutures among the three.

Never overbearing ands always cooperative throughout, Dimitriadis helps define the final “323” as a suave, bluesy swing exercise where the mirrored intro and coda bookend a spirited do se do of spittle-encrusted reed bites and tailgate extensions from the trombonist.

Mittendrin is a notable debut and a confirmation that the KERN members are sure to keep turning up on notable sessions while creating those of their own.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Mittendrin 2. Korallenriff 3. Zing Zong 4. Wiegenlied für die Eltern schräger Kinder 5. Hörts 6. Grasleben 7. Kirsch 8. Polar 9. Kreistanz 10. 323

Personnel: Matthias Müller (trombone): Edith Steyer (alto saxophone, clarinet and preparations) and Yorgos Dimitriadis (drums)