Frank Paul Schubert/Uwe Oberg/Paul Rogers/Mark Sanders

Open Ends
Trouble in the East Records 016

Schubert/Manderscheid/Blume

Spindrift

Leo Records CD LR 883

One of the growing numbers of Berlin-based young veteran improvisers, saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert has forged relationships not only with players of his generation, but with slightly older musicians and even some overseas. These sets, each of which features interpretations of two extended tunes, feature Schubert in quartet or trio ensembles.

Open Ends celebrates a long standing affiliation which links the saxophonist with countryman pianist Uwe Oberg, plus Britons, percussionist Mark Sanders and Paul Rogers who plays 7-string acoustic bass. All have extensive experience playing with the likes of Evan Parker, and Paul Dunmall. Recorded nearly two years later, in mid-2019, Spindrift is Schubert with the respected rhythm team of Germans drummer Martin Blume and bassist Dieter Manderscheid who have similar experience with saxophonist like Toby Delius and Frank Gratkowski.

Open Ends’ two movements evolve with similar intensity and steadily accelerate via bruising keyboard arpeggios, cymbal clashes and bass drum emphasis from Sanders, double bass pulses and pinched or overblown slurs from Schubert’s soprano saxophone. At the same time technical finesse is such that the four players are able to define the narrative at the same time as they dissect it. On “First Movement” this takes the form of individual solos and duets, as when the bassist turns below-the-bridge-stroking into moderated pitched that wouldn’t be out of place in a cello concerto, as well as a later section where Rogers’ plucks meet positioned keyboard clipping from Oberg. Alternately, when Schubert’s angled and arched flutter tonguing moves southwards at the same time as piano passages swell kinetically a mutual climax is reached. But not before Oberg has explored piano-string plucks and stops, Working up in increments to a pressurized height, multiphonic reed squeaks, rapid arco upscale rustles from Rogers plus complementary drum clip clops and churning keyboard feints connect and then settle into a coda of string buzzes and keyboard pings. “Last Movement” follows the same sort of pattern, except Oberg’s percussive keyboard slaps are often extended with impressionistic glissandi and conversely extensive inner piano strings stops. With Rogers cunningly using spiccato sweeps to speed up and slow down the backing along with Sanders clanks and rolls, the track reaches a crescendo of propelled expression with Schubert’s jagged split tones and forays into glossolalia finally exploding the tension. A final sequence of relaxed tongue slaps leading to squeezed saxophone trills and quieter piano keyboard tinkles signal the finale that doesn’t lose its power as the saxophonist squeezes out jet-plane-like buzzes at the end.

A different situation, there seems to be enhanced maturity and determination in Schubert’s playing on Spindrift. Perhaps it’s because he can vary his textures between alto and soprano saxophones; or that there’s more sonic space available with only two associates; and/or the fact that the bassist and drummer have worked together for so long that a certain level of accommodation is expected. That’s accommodation not accompaniment, for the textures propelled from Blume and Manderscheid are tough and layered as well. In response, by the time the saxophonist completes the primary section of “Gale” his ferocious collection of screaming multiphonics and jagged split tones are as explosive as anything played by Charles Gayle, to take one saxophone avatar for comparison. Unfazed by this overblowing, the bassist and drummer keep up a concentrated dialogue to move the track forward. Before completing the interface with clip-clop accents, Blume sticks to cow-bell pops beneath a double bass expression that encompasses near chamber-music-like swirls and sweeps. Although subsequent sequences gradually lower the voltage to evenness, simple drum clanks, buzzing strings and reed gurgles are replaced in the track’s final five minutes with Schubert’s second wind which uses harsh runs to blow the piece to a splintering finale aided by drum crashes. More restrained with single bass string thumps and brushed cymbal accompaniment, “Leucothea” also finds the band members expressing themselves in double or triple counterpoint or with layered expositions – soprano saxophone on top. Even when Manderscheid asserts himself with strokes that work their way from the basement upwards, power is there without thematic flow interruption. The other stand out sequence involves Schubert whose instance of circular breathing evolves from near inaudible wisps to expressively vibrated honks, backed by drum clip clops and bass double stops before relaxing into a narrowed connection. When an unaccented trill is eventually burbled by the saxophonist, the ending is confirmed.

With high-quality improvising from all concerned on both discs, it’s almost crass to single out Schubert. But it’s his musical sophistication that links these sets.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Open: 1. First Movement 2. Last Movement

Personnel: Open: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano saxophone); Uwe Oberg (piano); Paul Rogers (7-string acoustic bass) and Mark Sanders (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Spindrift: 1. Gale 2, Leucothea

Personnel: Spindrift: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano and alto saxophones); Dieter Manderscheid (bass) and Martin Blume (drums and percussion)