Silke Eberhard Potsa Lotsa XL

Silk Songs for Space Dogs
Leo Records CD LR 878

While the name of Berlin alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard 10-piece ensemble comes from an Eric Dolphy composition, listening to this finely wrought CD suggests more antecedents. While George Russell and Charles Mingus –who both employed Dolphy – may have directed the best-known little-big-bands, other US east coasters like Teddy Charles and Oscar Pettiford led similar-sized groups in the late 1950s. Consciously or not those influence are suggested here.

The creative approach displayed from some of the German capital’s top players relates to that progressive genre because of the sophistication of the alto saxophonist’s compositions and arrangements and the interpretations that balance swing and exploratory motifs. Someone who has worked with Ulrich Gumpert and Gerry Hemingway among others, Eberhard has no trouble negotiating novel stylistic approaches.

One of the consistent tropes of Potsa Lotsa XL comes from the judicious use of the vibraphone. Taiko Saito’s ringing mallet work is sets up tunes such as “Fünfer, or Higher You Animals” and “Schirm”, adding subtle commentary or spurring on other soloists. Another regular occurrence is the use of Johannes Fink’s cello and Igor Spallati’s bass not only in tandem as rhythmic ballast, but also as harmonized swing vehicles, with cello strums taking the guitar function. This can be heard in an interlude to the final “Song in Orange”, which also includes slippery drum rolls from Kay Lübke, who adds Latinesque asides on other tracks. and a sputtering tailgate solo from trombonist Gerhard Gschlößl. Nikolaus Neuser’s trumpet strategy ranges from sky high brassiness to mellow muted dissolve, with both displayed on “Crossing Colours”; while pianist Antonis Anissegos’ comping helps maintain the foot-tapping rhythm Comprehensive reed solos subtly embed the most extended techniques. Tenor saxophonist Patrick Braun and Eberhard have license to vamp split ones, squeak shrilly and glisten irregular vibrations, for instance cunningly featured when contrasted with snowflake-light echoes from the vibist on “Max Bialystock”. More often though stacked horn textures riff around and behind soloists for added continuum, with Jürgen Kupke’s clarinet trills providing the highest layer of the reed pyramid or going it alone with piercing but not unsettling interjections on other tracks.

Even if it’s honoree or influences are not known, many others besides space dogs will want to hear Silk(e)’ Songs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Max Bialystock 2. Crossing Colours 3. Skeletons and Silhouettes 4. Fünfer, or Higher You Animals 5. Ecstasy on Your Feet 6. Schirm 7. One for Laika 8. Song in Orange

Personnel: Nikolaus Neuser (trumpet); Gerhard Gschlößl (trombone); Jürgen Kupke (clarinet); Silke Eberhard (alto saxophone); Patrick Braun (tenor saxophone); Antonis Anissegos (piano); Taiko Saito (vibraphone); Johannes Fink (cello); Igor Spallati (bass); Kay Lübke (drums)