Birgit Ulher/Franz Hautzinger

Kleine Trompetmusik
Relative Pitch RPR 1107

Jeb Bishop/Matthias Muche


Creative Sources CS 617 CD

Negotiating among the often difficult shoals of unaccompanied same instrument duo improvisations are two pairs of musicians who prevail by tweaking their brass instruments’ expected properties. Boston-based Jeb Bishop and Köln-native Matthias Muche stress the trombone’s raucous and extroverted qualities on their disc. Meanwhile Hamburg’s Birgit Ulher and Austrian Franz Hautzinger align their expressions around the trumpet’s hushed and microtonal abilities

In one manner these duos are an extension of the players’ usual operations. Although Hautzinger often performs with Isabelle Duthoit and others, and while Ulher has collaborated with the likes of Christoph Schiller, their preference for sound innovation is solo. Besides working with Matthias Müller in a unique trombone trio, both trombonists lean towards more conventional setups, Bishop with players like Ken Vandermark and Pandelis Karayorgis and Muche with Georg Wissel and Nicola L. Hein.

“Balduin & Michael” is the most wide-ranging and defining track on the Muche-Bishop CD. As the duo’s muted plunger variations unfurl and swell, one creates a breathy percussive ostinato while the other uses whistles to extend the exposition until at midpoint strands unite into a dance of slurry slides and brassy tones. Speeding up the theme still further, capillary cacophony is heard, but chromatic motion is never lost. Following a pause, the two unite for a coda of intense low pitches. In contrast, a track like “Anthony & Gary” also shows that that the solo-continuum strategy can be adapted to balladic use with gurgles and growls dissolving into soothing darker tones Many of the other tracks concentrate on the trombone’s changeable applications as an instrument that can spit out nanosecond-limited blasts with AK-47 accuracy or express jokey, waddling intersection of gutbucket slurs and expansive brass chortles. Overall though, the key to this duo’s work is how both are able to integrate inflections of the instrument’s full range into each improvisation. Pentimento-like, evidence of mellow pulses lurk beneath shattering metal tones; and conversely memories of body tube shudders influence how languid narratives play out.

The same sort of metal-memory release is present on Kleine Trompetmusik, but while Bishop and Muche stick to the definition of their playing as trombone music, Ulher and Hautzinger are dedicated to the promulgation of sounds with trumpets as the medium. This is especially apparent with Ulher, who adds radio, speaker and objects to her trumpet tones. Hautzinger is more of a brass player, but even so microphone placement and a selection of mutes and half-valve effects makes his exposition less than standard.

Echoing and coordinated, the two begin “Firn”, the first and longest track, with the expelled of near static air that takes on watery growls and tongue pressure for added torque. Aiming for elevated fanfares, the concentrated squeaks are quickly followed by more grounded whooshes, with valve-leaking dissolving to cautious rolling sputters. Dividing the aural space as on “Filz”, one trumpeter uses frenetic and dissected yelps to break up a solid narrative, while the other’s concentrated buzz maintain a horizontal theme, Eventually after dog-like barks, transverse mouthpiece blows, inner tube growls and plunger yodels are propelled as expressions of extended techniques, continuum is reaffirmed with the final, almost 11½ minute “Zuuf”. Incredibly – and cannily – thematic forward-motion is maintained even as metallic patterning, high pitched gargles and lower pitched brass burps enter the narrative. Three-quarters of the way through a high-pitched mechanized cry with plunger extensions signals completion as it melds with toned-down growls.

Valid do strategies are promised and confirmed on each disc.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Duo: 1. Robin & Jaki 2. Rosalie & Paul 3. Maja & Noah 4. Charles & Aiden 5. Henrietta & Brucie 6. Palle & Jack 7. Balduin & Michael 8. Franziska & Jim 9. Anthony & Gary 10. Spanferkelhaxe

Personnel: Duo: Jeb Bishop and Matthias Muche (trombone)

Track Listing: Kleine: 1. Firn 2. Griesel 3. Filz 4. Eibisch 5. Zuuf

Personnel: Kleine: Birgit Ulher (trumpet, radio, speaker, objects) and Franz Hautzinger (trumpet)