Ocean Fanfare

First Nature
Barefoot Records BFREC 060 CD

Die Hochstapler

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog

Umlaut Records UB010

Angelika Niescier

New York Trio

Intakt CD 321

Three variations on the venerable saxophone-trumpet-bass-drum formation shows its continued global popularity considering German, French, Italian, Polish, Danish and American players are involved. As importantly, the sessions demonstrate that even small tinkering with the formula(s) can result in wholly distinct if equally valid programs.

Members of the mixed French-German-Italian combo, Die Hochstapler, expand their six original compositions from a template pioneered by the original Ornette Coleman quartet. But the band’s nuanced approach applies post-modernism to FreeBop. For a start, drummer Hannes Lingen’s snare popping and cymbal shattering are more pacific than any of Coleman’s drummers’ work; bassist Antonio Borghini’s spontaneous buzz-string strategy takes into account post-Cagean spacing as well as Jazz rhythms; plus the front line approach which measures broad emotionalism along with micro slurs and peeps from trumpeter Louis Laurain and alto saxophonist Pierre Borel encompasses individual pre-Bop styling as much as contemporary reductionism.

Although other tracks allow the four to demonstrate their adaptations of multiple motifs, from the drummer/s ability to swing with reverberations that as easily could some from whacking empty plastic bottles; or the expansive vibrations Borel sometimes displays that could have migrated from an Eddie Vinson session, Die Hochstapler’s defining moments come into focus around the quartet hour marks. Laughingly diving into “Prima”, creative tension is engendered by intertwining thin reed cries and unceasing brass peeps that turn into a fox-and-hounds-like chase involving the horns. Eventually as the trumpet line soars higher and saxophone intonation turns to net-like bites, the assured climax nods to “Focus on Sanity” even as it also establishes its originality. The even lengthier “Di Prima” quickly moves from martial drum pops to vibrating horn counterpoint that modulates from impressionism into tiny brass peeps and saxophone circular breathing. Marking time with silent pauses, rugged drum rolls and rim shots propel the piece – and the four – past another round robin romp to harmony and a deliberate ending.

There’s nothing deliberately understated about the eight tracks on New York Trio, since from its first burst of notes, this most recent collaboration between Köln-based alto saxophonist Angelika Niescier and American associates bristles with New York energy. Deceptively titled, Niescier’s mid-range slurs meet up with the robust but restrained drumming of Gerald Cleaver, the vamping squeezes from Christopher Tordini’s bass strings and harmonies from Jonathan Finlayson’s unadvertised crumpet as a fourth voice. Although the trumpeter’s role as accompanist to the saxophonist is emphasized, he still get some spirited solo turns, as when he introduces bugle-like slurs to “The Surge” or strained echoes to “Ekim”. At the same time on the later tune, his lithe obbligato is a response to the saxophone spinning out the theme in a shaded coloratura mode, with brass emotionalism balancing a somber double bass line and drum clanks. As the program shifts to foot-tapping on a track like “Push/Pull” brassy capillary sweeps from Finlayson often double the undulating slurs with which Niescier toughens her multiphonic narratives. Multiple stories are logically built up and elucidated during the course of the session. Especially on defining showcases like “5.8”, the double bass rarely stops pulsing, the drummer continues to rumble and pop and the theme is decisively shoved forward with speedy stridency from the saxophonist, ending with decisive theme variations.

Stridency is not a word that would be associated with First Nature on the other hand. Part of a planned acoustic trilogy of balanced lyrical and the melancholy sessions dealing with biodiversity, the tunes aren’t really programmatic however. Instead the mostly low-key CD depends on interplay among modulations from trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowsi, hushed or energized variations from alto saxophonist Sven Dam Meinild as well as the steadying rhythmic influence of bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Peter Bruun. Overall, the four have to struggle with a certain textural sameness since most of the themes are animated through harmonizing self-curbed brass vibrations, straight-ahead reed puffs and sophisticated contrapuntal work from the rhythm section. Tracks such as “Pony Squad” and “You Don’t Look Very Cheerful” stand out as they break away from this formula. For instance the equivalence of the second tune depends on Meinild straining and crying reed textures during his theme amplifications, but not to the extent that he upsets the general flow of the piece. The smooth transitions are further amplified by Dąbrowski’s canny use of supportive plunger tones, with the result rhythmically tougher but also supportive. As for “Pony Squad”, growling bites echoing within his instrument’s body from the trumpeter provide some harsh variations on the theme until the track settles into chromatic line with vague Latin-like fills and, following a tempo upsurge, climaxes with vamping horn slurs and distinctive drum patterns.

Quartet sessions like these offer a choice between the harsh and the harmonized, in a fashion energetic or enervated. None ventures very far into unexplored territory, but all provide a level of expertise that will affect many.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Quick: 1. Dear Margherita 2. The Music of Alvin P. Buckley 3. Prima 4. The Fox 5. Di Prima 6. APB is dead

Personnel: Quick: Louis Laurain (trumpet); Pierre Borel (alto saxophone); Antonio Borghini (bass) and Hannes Lingens (drums)

Track Listing: New: 1. The Surge 2. Cold Epiphany 3. …ish 4. Ekim 5. Push/Pull 6. Chancery Touting 7. 5.8 8 A Trick Passing a Clock Tower

Personnel: New: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet); Angelika Niescier (alto saxophone); Christopher Tordini (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)

Track Listing: First: 1. We Can’t Stop Now 2. Hjemmefødsel 3. Importance of Madness 4. Pony Squad 5. The Dialogues 6. Cordovan 7. Klangtræ 8. You Don’t Look Very Cheerful 9. Matsutake

Personnel: First: Tomasz Dąbrowski (trumpet); Sven Dam Meinild (alto saxophone); Richard Andersson (bass) and Peter Bruun (drums)