|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Johannes Bauer
Johannes Bauer/Matthias Müller/Christof Thewes
Gligg Records 013
Giancarlo Schiaffini/Sebi Tramontana
Wind & Slap
Rudi Records RRJ 1001
Yellow Sound YSL 566843
Any one of these CDs could easily answer the question: “how many trombonists does it take to change a light bulb?” Substitute “improvise impressively” for the action and the answer becomes: “as many as needed”. At the same time, the four Americans, three Germans and two Italians represented on these sessions demonstrate that brass ‘bone creativity can be doubled and/or tripled.
Collectively eschewing any chordal or rhythmic back-up – as a matter of fact instruments of any kind except for brass – the nine players evolve distinguishing strategies for each of these ‘bone fests. Rome-based Giancarlo Schiaffini, and Munich-based, Sicilian Sebi Tramontana, both charter members of the Italian Instabile Orchestra for instance, break up their trombone dependency by also playing euphoniums (both) and tuba (Schiaffini) on their CD. In contrast, New York’s Joe Fiedler ascribes the tuba role to veteran low-brass specialist Marcus Rojas while Fiedler, Josh Roseman and Ryan Keberle stick to the slide instrument. Meanwhile Schiffweiler-based Christof Thewes and the two brassy Berliners, Johannes Bauer and Matthias Müller, play nothing but trombones on their six live tracks.
Quirky rhythms and good humor are the trademarks of improvisers like Schiaffini and Tramontana, who both often play with other musical jokesters like bassist Joëlle Léandre. Here, many of the CD’s instant compositions are fancifully titled, while the verbal asides and plunger strategies both players advance from their twin ‘bones are as apt to relate to pre-Bop stylists as Kid Ory and Vic Dickinson as fleet JJ Johnson-styled modernism.
Take for instance the final, title tune, where the aleatoric and eclectic cacophony buzzes through a mixture of Swing, Bop and even Dixieland references. Agitated tone blends are followed by double-counterpoint plunger runs and even shouts of “Go!” Meantime “As the Heartless Ghost” is concerned with demonstrating how high and how long the two can push grace notes through their horns. Nonetheless one trombonist is involved with tart variations plus large scale quivering snorts and gobbles, while the other concentrates on lyrical, straight-ahead positions, creating muted, almost trumpet-like textures.
On tuba, Schiaffini growls like a hippo masticating its food on “Beautiful Roots”, while Tramontana’s tongue-twisting lines harmonizes with him. Tellingly, Schiaffini’s euphonium strategies are mostly concerned with intersecting trembling grace notes plus staccato chords, whereas “As in my Bones”, with Tramontana on euphonium, depends on his pre-modern guffaws and whinnies as Schiaffini’s plunger trombone work is as fleet as it is echoing. Delineating their playing on different horns, Tramontana is speech-like and billowing in his solos, while Schiaffini’s interface is nephritic and staccato, even as his pants and slurs add near-burlesque timbres.
Switching the connective ostinato back-and-forth swiftly, on “Stones and Deadwood”, the two contrast a pseudo-marching band stomp with speedy growls, then work into cutting-contest-like, staccatissimo runs, and finally climax with hiccupping rhythmic pops from one and lower-pitched burps from the other.
Rojas doesn’t burp, but during the majority of the performances on Big Sackbut keeps the tunes flowing smoothly with constant pedal-point accompaniment. His bare bones basso assurance allows the others to step forward in different combinations. Fiedler, who has gigged with ensembles including the Mingus and Satao Fujii Big band, Latin groups and a Captain Beefheart tribute band, is also diverse in Big Sackbut’s song selection. While the majority of material is his, there are also compositions by Don Van Vliet (AKA Beefheart); Willie Colon and Sun Ra.
It’s the last, Ra’s “A Call for all Demons”, which is most descriptive. The amiable melody is reconfigured for four brass instruments without losing its Jazz individuality, but mettle still remains, thanks to Rojas’ tuba puffs. On top Roseman, who has played with musicians as different as keyboardist John Medeski and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum; and Keberle, who experience encompasses Latin bands plus gigs ranging from Maria Schneider orchestra to backing Justin Timberlake, take turns exposing machine-gun-like staccato tonguing.
Brass expansion doesn’t end there however. Fielder’s solo on “Does This Make My Sackbut Look Big” is filled with contrapuntal triplets, built up with constant burrs and sliding slurs and completed by a colorful turnaround. Meanwhile his strategy on his own “#11” is smoothly balladic, with rubato trilling sneaking out from among the others unison blustery capillary lines until it finally reaches legato harmonies. Creating arrangements in a different fashion, he and Keberle stack multiphonic cries on top of one another on “The Crab”, with Rojas’ ostinato strengthening the layering. Slithering between mouthpiece sucking and speedy triple tonguing, Fiedler manages to maintain a chromatic motion for the tune.
With other tunes on Big Sackbut reflecting harmonies that alternately could arise from Jay & Kay, the Boss Brass, Blood, Sweat & Tears or a New Orleans marching band, the quartet is most individually notable on “Ging Gong” which features Rojas’ only solo. With pitch-sliding inflections in the exposition, which seem to result from the mating of a crocking frog and a twanging Jew’s harp, the tubaist eventually turns to Second Line pumping as the trombone trio bites down on harsher slurs. By the finale the tuba’s balanced bottom notes provide the base on which everything from hoedown suggestions to snorting blue notes are displayed, culminating in a tremolo finale that keeps the rhythm going as nearly every brass note from the highest to the lowest is featured fortissimo.
Many of these same brass strategies are exhibited, often at breakneck pace, in the Bauer-Müller-Thewes capillary meeting. Each player too has extensive experience Müller with bands featuring the likes of guitarist Olaf Rupp and trumpeter Nils Ostendorf; Thewes with bands including pianists Ulrich Gumpert and Uwe Oberg; and Bauer with everyone from saxophonist Evan Parker to drummer Roger Turner.
There are points here at which it seems that the combo from a rickety-tick minstrel show has suddenly decided to try out some of Vinko Globokar tougher trombone exercises. That’s because some tunes balance on a swinging beat created by a slide ostinato, as soloists compete to see who can blow the loudest and strongest. Renal growls, staccatissimo jitters, triple-tonguing smears, whinnies and staccato bites are all heard. Affiliated, but not in unison, the resulting textures can be half fire engine siren and half euphonious whine, before finally reaching a point where singular smears collide. Elsewhere the collective bass notes are such that subterranean tones are lower pitched than anything pulled from the tubas on the other CDs; other times long-lined puffs stack up into brassy bugle-like fanfares.
Passing the narrative among all three trombonists, the session’s layered tour-de-force is the aptly named “Quintessence”. Taken at a breakneck pace, the oscillations and multiphonics frequently meld into a dense mass. But despite the solid mass, individual timbres are still audible. As the intermezzo intensifies, combinations of trios, duos and solos are tried out, as are a nuanced collection of extended techniques. For instance two ‘bonemen harmonize as the third develops a solo out of air bubbled through the horn’s body tube without slide or valve motions. Multiphonics take the form of unattributed clicking sounds, animal-like yelps, drum stick approximating rattles or old-timey tailgate-styled slurs. Bravura in execution, nephritic buzzes are heard along with split-tone variations on the theme which become more staccato as it develops. Finally the three join in mellow, good-humored tessitura which extends without rigidity into a powerful finale.
If trombone sounds pull your slide, than you should be in brass heaven with any or all of these CDs. At the same time each confirms that the right players can create an enthralling recital with only the timbres available from multiple brass instruments.
Track Listing Posaunenglanzterzett: 1. Blümlein Aus Stahl 2. Quintessence 3. Signal I 4. Signal II 5. Signal III 6. Keep On Krach Making
Personnel: Posaunenglanzterzett: Johannes Bauer, Matthias Müller and Christof Thewes (trombones)
Track Listing: Wind: 1. Quiet As A Bone 2. As Tone Lies Lost 3. As The Heartless Ghost 4. As They Dive+ 5. As In My Bones+ 6. This Shade 7. Beautiful Roots^ 8. Holy Leaves* 9. In The Wind’s Wakes* 10. As A Purple Sofa^ 11. She Was Still Stoned 12. As An Empty Stone 13. As A Strange Tongue 14. About Sleepwalkers and Wind 15. Stones and Deadwood 16. Wind and Slap
Personnel: Wind: Giancarlo Schiaffini (trombone, euphonium* or tuba^) and Sebi Tramontana (trombone or euphonium+)
Track Listing: Sackbut: 1. Mixed Bag 2. The Crab 3. Don Pullen 4. A Call for all Demons 5. #11 6. Calle Luna, Calle Sol 7. Blabber and Smoke 8. Ging Gong 9. Does This Make My Sackbut Look Big? 10. Urban Groovy
Personnel: Sackbut: Joe Fiedler, Josh Roseman and Ryan Keberle (trombones) and Marcus Rojas (tuba)
October 2, 2012
Kris Wanders Outfit
In Remembrance of the Human Race
Not Two MW-856-2
Kris Wanders-Mani Neumeier Quintet
Taken By Surprise
Not Two MW-861-2
Avant Jazz’s history is filled with unacknowledged legends and “what ifs”. Musicians, who didn’t get the right breaks, changed career plans for various reasons or became isolated, are legion both in North America and Europe.
One tantalizing thought is what if Dutch tenor saxophonist Kris Wanders, featured on both these notable CDs, had stayed in Europe instead of immigrating to Australia in the late 1970s? On evidence here, Wanders, an early member of the Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO), who often played with Peter Brötzmann, still has enough inventive grit and power in his playing to hold his own with anyone – including the seminal European Free Jazzers with which he trades licks on In Remembrance of the Human Race. Another question is what may have happened if Swiss drummer, Mani Neumeier, another early GUO member, had stayed with Free Music instead of founding pioneering KrautRock outfit Guru Guru? Judging from his well-paced, unpretentious playing on Taken By Surprise, recorded with Wanders and an Australian trio, his influence on percussionists may have been sizeable.
In the years since emigrating, the now Melbourne-based Wanders has been a one-man link to the European Free Jazz tradition and influenced locals such as percussionist Robbie Avenaim and bassist Clayton Thomas. The trio featured on Taken By Surprise operates at a similar high level as the Swiss drummer and Dutch reedist and includes Melbourne-based tenor saxophonist Brett Evans, Brisbane-based guitarist Yusuke Akai and bassist Rory Brown from Sydney.
Judging from Akai’s multi-fingered chromatic runs, slurred fingering and clanking twangs exhibited throughout the CD’s three frenetic tracks, his presence answers a secondary question: what would Wes Montgomery have sounded like playing with John Coltrane’s final quintet? The concept isn’t that far-fetched. Montgomery was for a short period part of an early Trane formation until economics curtailed the experience. But imagine hearing Montgomery’s inventions unhampered by Verve or A&M string sections and spurred by Trane, Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali. The potential evidence is here.
Cast in the Sanders role vis-à-vis Wanders’ Trane, Evans acquits himself admirably. Although it’s a bit difficult to determine who takes which saxophone solo, since both venture into altissimo glossolalia, pitch-sliding slurs and stop-time flattement. When the two blow parallel split tones with harmonic extensions reminiscent of Ascension, both are audible. It’s likely Wanders who throughout specializes in staccato and tremolo friction and Evans who adds snorting linear expansion. Moreover at times the saxophone recitation is so onerous with nephritic honks and node swelling, it sounds as if reeds could literally be splitting. Rather than being the forgotten man here though, bassist Brown’s timbral constructions include steadying pumps behind guitar and sax solos as well his own tough string skittering.
One of the present-day exemplars of that instrument, Brussels-based Peter Jacquemyn, who has played with everyone from saxophonist André Goudbeek to pianist Fred Van Hove, is the bassist on In Remembrance of the Human Race, recorded in Antwerp almost two years before the Australian CD. London’s Mark Saunders who has partnered saxophonists ranging from Evan Parker to John Butcher is on drums. And from Berlin, expansive trombonist Johannes Bauer, who regularly woks with a clutch of European bands, including ones with Parker and Brötzmann, fills out the group.
European Free Jazz of the highest calibre, the CD finds Wanders picking up the improvisational threads where he left them 30 years previously, unperturbed by blowing in such fast company. Probably the climax of the session arrives on “Uwaga” – how’s that for a late 1960s style Free Jazz title? Following some Morse-code-like spits from Bauer, the trombonist continues extending the sequence is a straight line as Wanders decorates the result with irregular vibrations, guttural snorts and broken-octave split tones. With Jacquemyn plucking away and Sanders rustling and bouncing, the piece opens up so that the trombonist’s relentless slurs and tongue stops now develop alongside the saxophonist’s jerky inflections, spiccato shrilling and tremolo vibrations. As both hornmen stretch their instruments sounds into vocalized tessitura, the bassist creates a third parallel line which is as arpeggio-modulated as it is friction-laden. Not to be outdone Sanders slides and scuffs on his drum tops and rings small bells. Meanwhile Bauer’s plunger tones become subterranean gutbucket, while conversely Wanders’ scratchy, squeezed runs range between inchoate and inclusive. Letting the saxman create a note-cluster pedal-point, the trombonist takes out the tune triple-tonguing, at first with agitated and then with mid-range timbres.
This sort of palpable exhilaration is present throughout the CD’s three selections. Bauer does provide a jape, when he finally enters the title track quoting Mercer/Arlen’s “Out of this World”, recorded by Coltrane, and which is perhaps a comment on how Wanders’ staccato tonguing, crying gurgles and intense overblowing reference Trane’s style. Earlier on Sanders has replicated kettle drums with his powerful tom whacks, as Jacquemyn’s wood-splintering rumbles and pumps are sufficient mates for the trombonist’s vocalized quacks. If that wasn’t enough, by the finale, the bass man sums up and redirects the near-supersonic forward rushing of all concerned by slicing the tension with a lyrical bowed bass solo.
Unacknowledged he may be, but with these releases Wanders proves that his tenure down under hasn’t lessened his experimental tendencies or sound searching. He can still hold his own with the best Europe has to offer. As well the newer CD introduces some expressive Aussie players and implies that Neumeier could still be a first-rate Free Jazz drummer if he wanted to move in that direction.
Track Listing: Remembrance: 1. In Remembrance of the Human Race 2. Uwaga 3. A Man’s Dream
Personnel: Remembrance: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Kris Wanders (tenor saxophone); Peter Jacquemyn (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)
Track Listing: Taken: 1. Oxymoron 2. Taken By Surprise 3. Not On Radio
Personnel: Taken: Kris Wanders and Brett Evans (tenor saxophones); Yusuke Akai (guitar); Rory Brown (bass) and Mani Neumeier (drums)
December 30, 2011
Selbstbestimmung einer Szene/Self-defining a scene (Berlin 1995–2010)
Burkhard Beins, Christian Kesten, Gisela Nauck and Andrea Neumann (editors)
Probably the most talked about, written about and analyzed improvised music scene since the original New Thing explosion in mid-1960s New York, Berlin’s Echtzeitmusik or real-time music, practitioners have directed an international sound focus towards the German capital since the early 1990s.
Rejecting the bluster of Free Jazz, influenced by so-called New music and some Pop, in-the-main Echtzeitmusikians concentrate on hushed, so-called lower-case sounds. Moreover, the cumulative effect of that many like-minded players from inside Germany and abroad convening on a single geographic spot, and nurtured by a group of musician-run performance spaces, has created an unprecedented sense of solidarity. Some players, such as trumpeter Axel Dörner and laptop/software specialist Christof Kurzmann, have gained a measure of international acclaim, at least in this tiny slice of the music scene.
Notwithstanding that, many musicians involved with Echtzeitmusik consider that the situation should be better defined. This over 400-page volume, published in both English and German, is designed to come to terms with what Echtzeitmusik is, rather than what it isn’t. Like many such projects though, the results are mixed. Although it’s evident that the editors – percussionist/composer Burkhard Beins, vocalist/composer Christian Kesten, journalist/academic Gisela Nauck and inside-piano innovator Andrea Neumann – allowed the book to grow in order to include as many points of view as possible, the very range of opinions make the subsequent material less than authoritative.
For a start some of the 58 contributors treat their contributions as exercises in hagiography. Their nostalgia-tinged tales are about the time just after Berlin Wall fell, where cheap rents and a general state of Teutonic euphoria appeared to encourage all manner of sonic experimentation, not unlike New York’s Loft era of the 1970s.
Added to these exercises in reminiscences are many of the illustrations themselves, which are sometimes put together in scrap box fashion. They show improvisers posing as part of different, often overlapping groups; offer snapshots of formerly important, now shuttered, music spaces; as well as plus full-color reproductions of the covers of representative CDs.
Other chapters, such as those by Neumann, turntablist Ignaz Schick and tubaist Robin Hayward go into technical detail about the challenges of creating novel improvising techniques and provide blueprints and diagrams for their dissemination.
Academics and theorists take space as well in attempts to classify Echtzeitmusik in some way, an idea which seemed to have its origin in the “27 Questions for a Start” asked of other musicians and participants in the scene in 2007 by the members of Trio Sowari: tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, Beins and electronics manipulator Jim Denley. Unfortunately a multiplicity of answers from different players, plus a group of near-dissertations clogged with more academic terms and footnotes than a teenager has acne, prove inconclusive.
Meanwhile Diego Chamy, who relocated from Buenos Aires to Berlin in 2007 and migrated from playing percussion to becoming a self-defined performance artist, provide contributions that make him the volume’s sole gadfly. Besides questioning the purity of improvised music in general, he also devotes an entire article to questioning how one 2009 festival could offer a €1,000 prize for the performance by the “best” improv duo. His thesis is that rankling concepts like this destroy the non-hierarchal ethic which characterizes “in the moment” music.
Overall, the book’s most instructive material involves discussion/interviews with those players active during those years, which bring an international perspective to the scene: Dörner, Kurzmann, trombonist Johannes Bauer and bassist Werner Dafeldecker. In truth, like participants in similar self-defined musical movements and collectives such as the Brooklyn Underground Movement or the London Music Collective, more questions are raised than answers supplied. In a way, it appears, defining Echtzeitmusik undisputedly may be as futile as trying to classify “Jazz”.
Still Echtzeitmusik: Selbstbestimmung einer szene /Self-defining a scene provides a thoughtful and, at times, entrancing introduction to, and elaboration on, what developed and is still developing on the Berlin improv music scene. As importantly, the volume can provide a guidebook, warning light and/or basis for discussion to those players involved with or contemplating creating similar collective situations in other locations.
November 20, 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1
3 Nights in Oslo
Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD
Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway
Old Dogs (2007)
Mode Avant 9/12
The Heliocentric Worlds
Rivière Composers’ Pool
Summer Works 2009
Something in the Air
By Ken Waxman
Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener.
Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway’s Old Dogs (2007) Mode Avant 9/12 for instance, is another installment in the ongoing recorded history of multi-reedman Braxton. The four CDs feature him and percussionist Hemingway, an integral part of the reedist’s bands from 1983 to 1994, but who has rarely played with him since that time. Each 60-minute inventive Invention was recorded in real time without edits or alternate takes. Extrasensory cooperation is demonstrated as Braxton moves among seven saxophones and Hemingway a percussion collection. Should Braxton’s soprano saxophone obbligato turn staccato and superfast, Hemingway responds with centred vibraphone pings plus affiliated marimba pops. If subterranean contrabass saxophone tongue stops and watery glottal punctuation raucously sound, then abrasive ruffs on ride cymbals and drum rims produce nearly identical timbres. Hemingway’s percussion command is such that in a heartbeat he can produced a tone midway between that of a dumbeck and a set of tin cans to contrast with the reedist’s irregular tonguing; then as swiftly bring his entire kit into play using press rolls and ruffs to replicate foot-tapping swing that complements Braxton’s rare forays into masterful, story-telling runs on tenor saxophone.
Another masterful saxophonist is German tenorist Peter Brötzmann. He never does anything by halves and Chicago Tentet +1’s 3 Nights in Oslo Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD consists of five CDs. No essay in self-aggrandizement, three of the discs feature band subsets. The two CDs featuring the ensemble are filled with the palpable excitement from 11 players collectively honking, fluttering and snorting. There’s space for all, with saxophonists Brötzmann and Mats Gustafsson creating reed gymnastics that encompass fortissimo runs, nephritic split tones and glottal punctuation. Contrapuntal brass layering melds Per Åke Holmlander’s elephantine tuba snorts, gut-bucket slurs from trombonists Jeb Bishop and Johannes Bauer, as drummers Paal Nilssen-Love’s and Michael Zerang’s flams and cymbal pressure chug underneath. Although it may seem that harmonies created by yapping horn blasts and polyrhythmic string friction from bassist Kent Kessler and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm are opaque, the band has such control that the climax isn’t blood vessel bursting flashiness, but contrapuntal divisions exposing every texture. Two smaller groupings stand out. The tenor saxophone battle between Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee allows undulating trills to bring needed balance to the duo’s initial ghostly shrieks and altissimo split tones. Elsewhere, Bishop, Bauer, Holmlander and McPhee on pocket trumpet, meld such extended techniques as metal buzzes, pedal-point burbles and peeping lip trills without losing chromatic mooring.
Similarly the three CDs which make up Rivière Composers’ Pool Summer Works 2009 Emanem 5301 are divided among sessions by a quartet of Americans, bassist Kent Carter and woodwind player Etienne Rolin, plus Germans, violist Albercht Maurer and clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann, plus trio and duo interaction. What’s instructive is how the musicians’ smaller meetings suggest ideas that eventually coalesce into the title suite. On the successive Music for a Ghost Story and Dance to This, Jörgensmann/Carter/Maurer build up wide-ranging modulations into a capriccio-like showcase including Jörgensmann’s flying glissandi, Carter’s string slaps and Maurer’s portamento runs. These movements are put to good use during the CD-length suite. From the exposition, where Rolin’s broken-octave basset horn extensions, chanter-like respiration from Jörgensmann’s clarinet, high-energy viola lines and sul tasto bass runs expand the theme, the variations cycle through quartet, trio, duo and solo episodes. If the clarinet outputs altissimo screeches, it’s calmed by Carter’s sul tasto stops; while speedy violin glissandi set the stage for mid-range reed licks. Putting aside bel canto or dissonant timbres, the climax downshifts to clarinet glissandi which push all into a gentling, diminuendo finale.
The wild card in this group is Sun Ra’s three-CD set of The Heliocentric Worlds ESP-Disk 4062. It confirms the composer/pianist’s legacy as an avant-garde Duke Ellington. Key players, such as saxophonists Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, plus Ra himself on pioneering electronic keyboards, solo impressively. Not only does the re-mastered 1965 set contain a recently discovered third disc, but each CD includes bonus material: a documentary film, a photo archive and contemporary writing. Like Ellington, Ra’s intricately shaded and organized arrangements create symphonic timbres with only 13 musicians. Phantasmagoric and polyphonic, extended tone poems like The Sun Myth are shaped by full-band expressions plus harmonies which contrast tuned bongos and sul ponticello bass thumps, or elsewhere contrapuntal saxophone vibrations and boogie-woogie piano runs. While The Cosmos takes its shape from call-and-response horn work, on other tunes Ra’s musical alchemy encompasses formalist piano tones, chalumeau bass clarinet smears and frenetic trumpet triplets.
Each of these attractively packaged boxed sets demonstrates how expansive musical quality can be presented in an intelligent fashion. And each – or all – would make a fine addition to your CD collection.
-- For Whole Note Vol. 16 #4
December 9, 2010
Kilogram Records 1kg 017
Building this triangular meeting around ornithologically titled tracks, the horn players on this CD prove that first-class improvisation can result from any combination of instruments. The two Germans and one Pole also confirm that extended techniques used judiciously as well as with bellicose intent can make fowl sounds as palatable as any others.
Two of the aviary adventures – Wuppertal saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Berlin trombonist Johannes Bauer –have been in the forefront of Free Music for years, working with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, violinist Jon Rose and bassist Barry Guy among many, many others. Gdańsk resident Mikołaj Trzaska is not as well-known, but shouldn’t remain so. Over the past 15 years he has widened his circle of playing partners from fellow Poles such as bassist Marcin Oleś and drummer Bartłomiej Oleś to Danish drummer Peter Øle Jorgensen, Belgian bassist Peter Jacquemyn and Americans multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee
Throughout the six tracks of this CD he holds his own on bass clarinet and C-melody saxophone against the formidable power of Brötzmann’s tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and tarogato. Over in the brass section, Bauer’s game plan locks in with the reed expositions from the other two, whether he’s vibrating rapid-fire triplets, exposing staccato asides or extending gutbucket smears to their utmost.,
Sounding at points like an out-of-control brass band, the three reach the zenith of creativity on the more-than 19½-minute “Ducks Call”. Here, the multi-layered and intertwining squeals, whinnies and reed pressure from both saxophonists widen polyphonic suggestions past the expected water-fowl-like tongue slaps. With all involved however it’s up to the trombonist to prevent fowl from becoming foul. At points Bauer’s multi-tongued solo accedes to triple counterpoint, before intersecting with the two reeds to maintain parallel parlando.
Although the reedists are initially apart – one uses a strident vibrato and flutter tonguing to outline the narrative, while the other overlays colored sound tinctures to comment on the progress, their tones soon grow closer. After C-melody and alto saxophones, then two clarinets are pressed into service for duck emulations. Trzaska and Brötzmann explore every corner of the tune, honking rough and nasal fortissimo drones at one another and eventually hooking up with Bauer’s rubato tonguing. Following a Brötzmann-led finale of wide-bore snarls and glottal punctuation, the three fuse to expose layered harmonies that range from shrill to subterranean.
Other improvisations range from near bel-canto explorations to ragged deconstruction; with grainy brays erupting from all sides of the horn triangle. If Brötzmann uses false register timbres to outline a strident message then Traska responds with false register timbres and a low-intensity obbligato. Or if Bauer erupts into a paroxysm of tone spitting and valve scat singing, then his irregular phrasing is matched by unaccented lyrical lines from Brötzmann’s alto or altissimo squeals from Trzaska’s clarinet.
Of course the German saxophonist obviously felt he couldn’t attribute all the inventive glottal punctuation to wild fowl. “The ‘Albert is Missing’ Signal” which wraps up this live session is both a homage to Albert Ayler and a change for Brötzmann to shudder, spit and vibrate variants of his glossolalia-touched, and Ayler-influenced playing. Beginning a capella, he’s joined first by the Polish saxophonist and then the German trombonist for a thorough examination of contrapuntal split tones, then close-knit harmonies until an extreme altissimo squeak ends the session.
No attempt at flipping anyone the bird, this instance of all-horn improvisation captures three canny sound makers at the height of their power(s).
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Goose Talks 2. Ducks Call 3. Two Birds in a Feather 4. Storm in the Waterglass 5. Peacock’s Nightmare 6. The ‘Albert is Missing’ Signal
Personnel: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Peter Brötzmann (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and tarogato) and Mikolaj Trzaska (bass clarinet and C-melody saxophone)
November 29, 2010
Global Unity Arrives in Montreal
Suoni per il Popolo festival report
By Ken Waxman
A willingness to book profound improvisers ignored by the commercial pseudo-Jazz behemoth that takes places later in the summer is what sets Montreal’s annual Suoni per il Popolo (SPIP) apart from other local festivals. For its 10th anniversary in late June, SPIP scored a major coup with the Canadian premiere of the all-star Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) on the second of a three-night event.
Not only was the entire 11-piece ensemble featured for two sold-out shows at La Sala Rosa, a former social club on, St. Laurent Boulevard, the city’s storied Main, but on the first and third nights, the smaller Casa Del Popolo club, on the opposite side of the street was packed as it played host to three GUO break-out ensembles. All in all, the GUO put on an exceptional performance that confirmed the elevated regard in which the group has been held since it was organized by German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1966. Notable as well were the two club sets on the final night by a trio made up of von Schlippenbach, German bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall and drummer Paul Lytton the subsequent night. However Casa Del Popolo performances by two differently constituted GUO ensembles the first night appeared more introductory than exemplary when, despite flashes of instrumental luminosity, an unconscionable raggedness seemed to permeate both sets.
In Montreal the GUO consisted of veteran Free Improvisers and notable younger players. Both von Schlippenbach and tenor saxophonist Gerd Dudek have been members from the beginning, while British tenor saxophonist Evan Parker and German drummer Paul Lovens joined in 1970. Experienced hands such as Lytton and German trombonist Johannes Bauer now tour with the band as well, while the remaining chairs are filled by younger European improvisers. They included French trumpeter/flugelhornist Jean-Luc Cappozzo plus a quartet of Germans, trumpeter Axel Dörner, trombonist Christof Thewes, alto saxophonist Henrik Walsdorff and Mahall.
Among the reeds it was Mahall who made the greatest impression. Gangly and energetic, his forceful improvising is often seconded by facial mugging, bandy-legged twisting and foot stomps. It’s as if the Tin Woodman was possessed by the spirit of James Brown. With the GUO, the bass clarinetist’s sometimes altissimo and often biting cries contrasted in broken octave cohesion with the more stolid improvisations from the tenor saxophonists. The soloist who most reflected the Jazz continuum, Dudek’s strained contrapuntal forays appeared to be heavily influenced by John Coltrane.
There were points in fact when Lytton’s and Lovens’ interaction reached such a boiling point of explosive cross beats when working with Dudek that the results resembled Trane’s final abstract work with Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali. Playing in tandem much of the time, the GUO percussionists also had moments of adroitness and finesse. Both rattle as often as they smack, use additional cymbals, wood blocks and other add-ons as part of their standard kit. They are as apt to hit the hi-hat and drum rims as the snare and bass drums.
Unique Solo Strategies
As the GUO’s unusually constituted rhythm section chugged along, soloists developed strategies to meld with it and with other horns. Leaving the drastic shifts from fortissimo to folkloric to Mahall, Parker’s contributions ranged from mid-range placidity, with divided timbres sensitively breathed, to snorts, honks, stutters, tongue slaps and key percussion. Even then, these advanced techniques such as Cappozzo’s rubato high notes or Lovens’ minute cymbal shrugs complemented others’ playing. Parker’s concentrated reed vibrations plus von Schlippenbach plucking and stopping the piano’s internal strings and Lovens’ response frequently created trio episodes in the midst of the large ensemble.
Cappozzo’s bear-sized hands often hid the panache of a prodigiously experienced brass man able to intimately maneuver either of his instruments. Although he took the first trumpet role at times, with fortissimo triplets rising out of a tutti, he was equally canny as a soloist. Holding his horn in one hand, he used the other as either a hand mute or for finger movements that pulled brass ripples from his bell without valve movement.
Meanwhile Dörner, who elsewhere confines himself to minimalist timbres, rarely showed that side. Instead his slide trumpet vamped alongside the other horns creating a skewed polyphony just this side of Dixieland. At one point he contrapuntally blasted grace notes alongside Mahall who responded with a nursery-rhyme variant. Another time Dörner cleanly articulated an expanded flourish, backed by a dual trombone obbligato. Bauer and Thewes had fun themselves, participating in the call-and-response runs and stepping forward for solos that ranged from chancy minimalist air expansion to hearty plunger blasts using cup or Harmon mutes. Bauer’s updated gutbucket smears were particularly effective.
Proving that the vocabulary of a large group doesn’t have to be limited by the past but can proffer intricately linked textures while leaving space for individualistic soloists, the GUO’s sounds that were both magisterial and lively.
Exquisite Essays in the Art of the Trio
Despite using a concert grand piano at the Sala Rosa, the intricacies of von Schlippenbach’s dynamic pulsing and inventive asides were often drowned by the massed exuberance of the GUO. A well-tuned upright gave him enough space the next night at the Casa Del Popolo however.
Over the course of two sets, the pianist, Mahall and Lytton interpreted mostly Thelonious Monk tunes their own way. The three added angularity to Monk’s already pointed melodies, gliding from one to the other without pause, highlighting links to earlier Jazz styles, while never negating Monk’s distinctiveness or their own.
Most notable was how core sounds were defined and presented in an unconventional group, with bass clarinet as the only horn and no bass player. Characteristically Mahall – like saxophonist Charlie Rouse with Monk – was von Schlippenbach’s chief foil. As comfortable in the chalumeau range as coloratura, Mahall’s highly rhythmic yet lyrical passages injected unselfconscious swing into his solos. Moreover his lines also revealed a mastery of stop-time runs. As he rappelled from the highest to the lowest pitches of his instrument at points he appeared at points to be playing call-and-response with himself. His portamento trills and stretched chords deflated to segregated puffs and split tones and contrasted nicely with to von Schlipplenbach’s dynamic range which encompassed hunt-and-peck percussiveness and supple extended glissandi.
Extended with wire brushes, knitting needles, wood blocks and unattached cymbals, Lytton’s kit provided the perfect back-up. Self-assured, he contributed a drum solo with woodblock thumps, clatter bump and clip-clops when the pianist segued into “Played Twice” – taken more staccato and much more joyously than Monk did. Elsewhere whapped cymbals and constant hi-hat shakes and pops buttressed the bass clarinetist’s harsh fortissimo growls, extended split tones and flutter tonguing.
Here as elsewhere, the pianist’s metronomic note clusters dissolved into concentrated slaps and cross-handed pumps. At the same time von Schlipplenbach often extended the melodies with novel techniques. These encompassed such tricks as: modified ragtime-styling, allowing Lytton to pop his snares and pumps his bass drum; arpeggio-laden spidery cadences that introduced ever-widening split tones quacks, and altissimo peeps from Mahall; and kinetic energy that made it sound as if he were replicating a piano roll. At points using knitting needles to provide a contrasting pattern or daintily rubbings his drum tops with his palms, Lytton’s most capricious percussion use came as the pianist segued into “Just a Gigolo”, which Monk also favored. Until Mahall completely obliterated the theme with chalumeau brays, the drummer used triangle pings and airborne ratcheting plus soft mallets on his floor tom to dislocate the time sense. Von Schlipplenbach’s abrupt introduction of a secondary, mid-tempo Monk line, directed the improvisation back to moderato as effectively as Mahall’s unexpected marshalling of a rolling blues line into the trio’s encore number lead to the reedist trading fours with the percussionist – and a satisfying conclusion to the evening.
Two times Four Musicians isn’t always Two Quartets
If only the first night’s sounds had been as dazzling as those on the other two. While improvised music thrives on spontaneity, neither ad-hoc quartet set at the Casa added up to more than the sum of its parts. Chances to contrast the styles of two sets of major innovators playing the same instrument – Dörner and Cappozzo plus Parker and Dudek – were available, although the same situation existed the second night with the entire GUO.
When it came to Parker/Dudek, what were most instructive were the strategies employed when the two saxophonists plus Dörner and trombonist Thewes weren’t involved in broken-octave harmonies. On their own, both saxophonists exhibited equal episodes of reed bites plus tongue slaps rather than melodiousness. On the other hand, the trombonist, with gnarly slurring and timbral spikiness, and the slide-trumpeter, with pointillist puffs and mangled note patterns, followed completely antithetical tactics.
During the other quartet set earlier in the evening, Cappozzo demonstrated his complete control of the horn, creating tongue stops and flat-line air with the same facility with which mellow slurs were isolated and produced from the side of his mouth. Bauer’s trombone work involved capillary quacks and disconnected mumbles forced through his bell, meeting Walsdorff’s split tones. Together the players provided irrefutable evidence of the brass background of all three horns. Sounding like a marching band gone berserk, this identity was confirmed while Lovens rhythmically slapped his unattached cymbals. When he wasn’t doing that, the percussionist countered the gurgles, brays, sputters and tongue flutters of the horns in varied fashion. Rarely keeping a constant beat, he instead divided his rhythms, devoting as much time to slapping his hi-hat with a drumstick or maneuvering a cloth and unattached cymbals on and off drum tops as he did pounding a backbeat.
While the sounds on this evening weren’t as spectacular as the ones heard on subsequent nights, that so many major European improvised stylists could be observed close-up made every one of these SPIP concerts essential listening. As the city’s other so-called Jazz festival increasingly anchors itself to programming irrelevant pop-styled music, SPIP becomes Montreal’s only essential summer festival for adventurous music.
July 23, 2010
Live in Nickelsdorf
Jazzwerkstatt JW 051
Jazzwerkstatt JW 059
Musicians of all stripes frequently relocate to make a better living and find a more sympathetic playing situation. But few literally travel as far as bassist Clayton Thomas, who a couple of years ago traded his home in Sydney, Australia for one in Berlin. It’s a testament to improvised music’s contemporary universality that Thomas’ trek was to Europe rather than the United States and a tribute to the German capital’s burgeoning improv scene that the bassist from Oz is constantly busy in his adopted city.
Das Treffen was recorded in Berlin, while Aus dates from a triumphant performance during 2007’s Konfrontationen in Nickelsdof, Austria. Besides Thomas’ slap bass thumps and staccato string-slices, the personnel on each CD are different as well. Peripatetic trombonist Johannes Bauer, who has played with everyone from bassist Barry Guy to saxophonist Peter Brötzmann is another-third of the Aus trio, while drummer Tony Buck – another Australian turned Berliner, best-known for his membership in The Necks, completes the triangle. Thomas’ cohorts on the other CD are all German. Trumpeter Axel Dörner balances reductionism with straight-ahead jazz in bands like Monk’s Casino; while percussionist Oliver Steidle in the band Soko Steidle with two of Dörner’s colleagues from Monk’s Casino.
Evolving their interaction over the course of seven live performances, each AUS-er contributes his share to the outstanding performances. Polyphonic and polyrhythmic all the pieces connect instantly and remain sutured throughout each musical twist, turn and wiggle. Bauer, for instance, slurs in the bass clef, quivers higher-pitched timbres and is snakily discursive most of the time, slipping from one tone to another with a full complement of grace notes. Buck clips, clops, rumbles and cymbal squeals when necessary, but also bears down on the beat with bass drum pops. Furthermore, Bauer’s command of the ‘bone is such that at times it appears as if he’s constructing palindromes that are both allegro and moderato.
Drawing out capillary lines in an elastic fashion, Bauer brays one minute and evacuates plunger textures from deep within his horn’s body tube the next. Sometimes he verbalizes at the same time as he blows, creating a secondary sound stream. Bauer’s grace notes can be so silvery and speedy that they’re almost as weightless as bell pings; at other points his triple tonguing and gutbucket smears wildly vibrate up to the stratosphere.
While all this is happening Buck rolls his cymbals and uses opposite sticking on his drum tops, while his pacing encompasses drags, ruffs and scatter-shot pumps. Available with muscular slaps and string ratcheting from sharp objects, Thomas also doesn’t neglect walking when it’s needed to move the piece forward. Finally, when each improvisation decelerates to diminuendo, clockwork pacing falls into place as each player follows the other in timbral downsizing.
Adding a chordal instrument played by John Schröder to brass, strings and percussion doesn’t upset the balance on Das Treffen either. However Dörner’s electronics and Steidle’s percussion and chaos pad introduce novel and sometimes brittle oscillations. On their own, the blurry grinds and sideband undulations seem to move the pianist from creating meditative inside piano string plucks to outputting a high frequency discursive fantasia that includes kinetic be-boppy runs. As attached as he is to distant microtonal whooshes and barely-there tonguing elsewhere, Dörner doesn’t miss an opportunity to respond to Schröder’s rhythmic comping with staccato upper-register melody snatches that could come from “Ko Ko” or “Shaw Nuff”. As well Thomas’ contributions are more than just plucks and slaps. Sometimes he stops the strings as much as he snaps them; at points he creates Morse-code-like pulses. Meanwhile Steidle chimes in with pops, ratamacues and rasping typewriter-like rim and cymbal clattering.
Sporting a title that would comfortably fit on any Bebop session, “Baby Doll” is the centrepiece of this CD, although at more-than-28-minutes it’s more Baby Huey than Baby Doll. The track features fluttering wave forms, voltage extended trumpet wisps, woody pops and sul ponticello squeaks from Thomas, dramatic low-frequency piano chording, plus rim shots and pops from the drummer. With Dörner growling and sounding unvarying tones – often creating his own ostinato – Schröder’s hunt-and-peck pianism is no more prominent than the oscillating flanges and processed signals. During a final variation some of these panning vibrations turn out to originate with Dörner’s valve manipulation as well. Timbre distortion accounted for, the quartet members return to the acoustic properties of their instruments for the finale.
Overall these two CDs demonstrate not only the many unique tonal properties being explored on the Berlin scene, but also the improvisational skills of the six musicians featured. Considering these are only two of the many aggregations to which bassist Thomas lends his skills, his decision to trade shrimp on the barbie for curry wurst on the bun appears to have been a wise one.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Live: 1. Aus 1 2. Aus 2 3. Aus 3 4. Aus 4 5. Aus 5
Personnel: Live: Johannes Bauer (trombone) Clayton Thomas (bass) and Tony Buck (drums)
Track Listing: Das: 1. Res Res 2. Baby Doll 3. Nautic Walking
Personnel: Das: Axel Dörner (trumpet and electronics); John Schröder (piano); Clayton Thomas (bass) and Oliver Steidle (drums, percussion and chaos pad)
February 21, 2010
October 2-October 5, 2008
Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s German quartet rolled through a set of Thelonious Monk compositions; Sardinians, saxophonist Sandro Satta and keyboardist Antonello Salis liberally quoted Charles Mingus lines during their incendiary set; Berlin-based pianist Aki Takase and saxophonist Silke Eberhard recast Ornette Coleman’s tunes; and the French Trio de Clarinettes ended its set with harmonies reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s writing for his reed section.
All these sounds and many more were highlighted during the fourth edition of Jazz Brugge, which takes place every second year in this tourist-favored Belgium city, about 88 kilometres from Brussels. But sonic homage and musical interpolations were only notable when part of a broader interpretation of improvised music. Other players in this four-day festival came from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Poland and Belgium. With strains of rock, New music and folklore informing the jazz presented at the festival’s three sonically impressive venues, music at the most notable concerts was completely unique or added to the tradition. The less-than-memorable sets were mired in past achievements or unworkable formulae
Aided by its intimate surroundings, noon-time concerts in the Groening Museum were a model of realized inspiration. Satta and Salis’ duo was particularly remarkable, especially when Salis attacked the piano keys and strings, partially answering the question: What would Cecil Taylor sound like if he was Sardinian?
Salis was no more Taylor, then Satta was Taylor’s saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, but this longstanding partnership created an individual sound. Conveyed on waves of pedal-pressure and low-slung glissandi from the pianist and the saxophonist’s open tone, which melded the delicacy of Paul Desmond and Earl Bostic’s wide vibrato with the split tones, altissimo squeaks and key slaps associated with Free Jazz, selections were as dense as they were lyrical. Salis’ piano produced minuet-reminiscent arpeggios as well as staccato honky-tonk striding. With Satta often cunningly manipulating blues nuances, both abstracted further timbres from their island heritage. Stretching the accordion bellows or hammering at its keypad, Salis foot-stamped and vocalized pseudo-Mediterranean shanties to emphasize further individuality.
Sicilian percussionist Francesco Branciamore showcased his version of tradition- extension a two days later with trombonist and tubaist Giancarlo Schiaffini and France’s Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet and flugelhorn. Cappozzo, whose capabilities range from producing Gabriel-like triplets to breathing hand-muted mellow lines, worked in unison or contrapuntally with Schiaffini. Meantime the low-brass playing Roman moved beyond pedal-point accompaniment to unleash with the same facility, tailgate trombone braying gurgling, vocalized tuba lowing and shrill mouthpiece-only tootles. Branciamore advanced rhythm with wet finger tips slid across drum tops, hand-stopped cymbals, and wrapped up the performance with a Second Line-like backbeat. But that was after the percussionist shifted to the vibraharp for a four-mallet display of repetitive boppish beats, cushioned by Schiaffini’s feather-light tuba blares.
The reeds missing from this performance were present in earlier museum concerts from France’s Le Trio de Clarinettes and the duo of France’s Louis Sclavis on clarinets and soprano saxophone and Italian Francesco Bearzatti on tenor saxophone and clarinet.
Between them, Sylvain Kassap, Armand Angster and Jean-Marc Foltz played clarinets, bass clarinets and contrabass clarinets, frequently in triple counterpoint, other times with one producing a slurping ostinato as the others decorated his lines in lower-case accompaniment. Using circular breathing Foltz, for instance, created dual counter tones with himself. Meanwhile Kassap turned coughing and wheezing into his bass clarinet into shimmering echoes separated by chromatic honks. By the finale, the three moved from key-tapping and microtonal inferences to a replication – lead by Angster’s bass clarinet – of the sort of trio harmonies Ellington favored.
Similarly expressive, Bearzatti and Sclavis maintained a rhythmic cohesiveness as they introduced any number of ornamentations, running from jerky spittle-encrusted vibrations to blaring flutter-tonguing. On soprano saxophone Sclavis favored a flashy Sidney Bechet-style lyricism, while Bearzatti’s clarinet solos included jazzy, mid-range glissandi. Most impressive was a duet which joined shaky mouthpiece quacks as if from a chanter and basso pedal-point drones as if from bellows, to suggest insistent bagpipe-like undulations.
The duo’s performance was better realized than that of Sclavis’ Big Slam Napoli in the Concertgebouw, which matched the two reedists with a rhythm section and rapper Dgiz, who, despite hip-hopping from one side of the stage to the other, easily confirmed that rap-jazz admixtures are best left to performers from North America.
Similarly, French bassist Henri Texier’s sextet, while pumped full of Jazz Messengers-like energy resulting from a front line of trombone, baritone and alto saxophone, mired itself in crunching funk. Relatively faceless in execution, except for the profoundly resonating solos of the leader, the presentation lost its mooring when the band’s drummer was given free rein to unleash the sort of showy pounding firmly moored in Hard Rock.
Branciamore’s percussion facility was more germane to improvised music as were the work of three drummers associated with both bands involving British bassist Barry Guy. Swede Raymond Strid and Briton Paul Lytton guided the 10-piece Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO) without beat bluster, while earlier in the evening in the Concertgebouw’s Kamermuziekzaal, Spaniard Ramón López unveiled a similar low-key strategy playing with Agusti Fernández, BGNO’s Barcelona-based pianist, and Guy. Turning the classic jazz piano trio on its head, López’s Iberian rhythms, often expressed with vibrated bells, a sound tree, a triangle and ratchets, defined the tunes. Meanwhile Guy used a short stick plus his bow to hew unexpected stressed chords from his strings as well as plucking animated arpeggios. With Catalan-styled voicing periodically demanding he stretch crab-like across the keys, Fernández outlined clipped and insistent chording to steer the pieces astride the jazz tradition.
Filled out with a EU impov whose’s who – baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and tubaist Per Åke Holmlander from Sweden, German trombonist Johannes Bauer, British saxophonist Evan Parker, Swiss clarinetist Hans Koch and one American – trumpeter Herb Robertson – the BGNO was an object lesson in showcasing individual improvisations within a notated score. Conducting as he played, Guy sometimes directed the reed and horn sections to cross pollinate each other’s cumulative vamps in canon fashion. Then it was his own forceful string twangs, Fernández’s targeted slides and pumps plus vibrating cymbal color and unexpected tutti crescendos that provided the performance’s bonding musical glue.
Interjecting individual theme variations were, among others, Parker’s flutter tonguing and chirping tenor saxophone, Koch’s wispy scene-setting bass clarinet puffs and blistering triplets from Robertson. Throbbing on top of a configuration of bass clarinet, tuba and baritone saxophone, the piece reached its climax following diminishing drum beats and hunting-horn-like yodels from the trombone. Heraldic trumpet tattoos and low-pitched piano lines signaled tension release and conclusion.
One reason the BGNO performance was satisfying was because players created variations on a previously recorded Guy orchestration. Mutating familiarized themes in another fashion was less notably expressed by Von Schlippenbach’s Monk’s Casino band and Takase and Eberhard’s Ornette Coleman Anthology set. Although bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall fused exuberant altissimo and split tone playing with the ability to duck walk across the stage; and trumpeter Axel Dörner fused triplest and a blues tonality in his solos impresssiverly, overall the Von Schlippenbach four crammed too many 78-rpm-length Monk themes into the set that would have lost focus if not for the powerful walking bass of Jan Roder. Similarly the Takase/Eberhard duo substituted Coleman’s innate quirkiness for readings that straightjacketed the alto man’s tunes into standard head-variation-solo-recap formula. It felt as if the two bands presented the Classic Comics or Reader’s Digest version of advanced jazz.
All and all though, Jazz Brugge’s pluses overwhelmed its minuses, setting up high expectations for 2010’s fest.
-- Ken Waxman
-- MusicWorks Issue #103
March 28, 2009
Outside this Area
Intakt CD 136
Unconventional instrumentation is nothing new for Free Music, with classic formations left to the more tradition-minded so-called classical and jazz ensembles. But who else beside Berlin’s formidable Bauer Brothers would be able to create enough textures from just two guitars and their own twinned trombones to satisfy every sonic requirement?
That may be a moot question. But the truth is that since 1982 this East German quarter of made up of guitarists Uwe Kropinski and Joe Sachse plus Conrad Bauer and his younger brother Johannes Bauer on trombones has maintained a high standard of improvised music, despite – or perhaps because of – Doppelmoppel’s unique instrumentation. Over and over again the four have proved that cerebral ideas and advanced techniques are more necessary for the creation of memorable music than the combination of instruments upon which those sounds are played.
Simple division of labor – or is it layering of parts – demonstrates this situation on Outside this Area. During the 11 instant compositions that make up this CD, each Doppelmoppel member has a specific, polyphonic or contrapuntal role. One trombonist, for instance, will output aviary-style screeching that appears to owe more to reeds than valves, while the other busies himself with pedal-point excavations. At the same time one guitarist involves himself in intricate almost-flamenco-like strokes, or finger-style, folk-blues picking, while the other powerfully smacks and scrapes his strings and the guitar body so that the instrument becomes a percussion source.
Other instrumental arrangements are showcased as well. On “Walk 6”, for example, both trombones initially play straight-ahead and legato in sequence, pumping braying chromatic tones so that they become near-palindromes of one another. The guitarists’ licks on the other hand are completely individual. One plectrumist exposes tremolo treble tones and the other more linear lower pitches. Eventually, the continuous sound spray is distorted into single-string stopping from one guitarist as the other uses roughened strokes and heel-of-hand smacks to create a bongo-like effect. This division influences the brass men as well, so by the piece’s final variation, roaring trombone slurs make common cause with flat-picking strums.
Sharp, reverberating contrapuntal cries from one trombone-playing brother mix with plunger tones from the other on “Walk 10”, as one guitarist plays near-madrigals on acoustic guitar. Indisputably electrified, the other guitarist’s instrument permits him to try out ragged and buzzing vibrations. With dirge-like drones the Bauers unite at the same time as Kropinski and Sachse work their way to a crescendo of complementary, rasgueado rhythms.
Further interactions that include tail-gate slurs or rubato brays from the brass, and a solid mass of strummed chords or rhythmic comping from the strings enliven other tracks. Although each musician here is involved in other bands, the individualistic program fashioned by Doppelmoppel continues to impress.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Walk 1 2. Walk 2 3. Walk 3 4. Walk 4 5. Walk 5 6. Walk 6 7. Walk 7 8. Walk 8 9. Walk 9 10. Walk 10 11. Walk 11
Personnel: Conrad Bauer and Johannes Bauer (trombones) and Uwe Kropinski and Joe Sachse (guitars)
October 28, 2008
Twisting only slightly the hoary adage, this notable CD proves that the family that plays together improvises exceptionally well together. Over the course of 15 sequentially title instant compositions the quartet demonstrates how wide the expanse of sonic timbres are available from two trombones, one piano and one acoustic bass.
Some of Germany’s most celebrated jazz players, the group members have been involved with the maturing of the country’s original sounds for many years as proven by their birth dates: trombonist Konrad Bauer (1943), his younger brothers, trombonist Johannes (1954) and bassist Matthias (1959) and Konrad’s pianist son Louis Rastig (1987).
Appropriately enough, it’s mostly the two youngest players who provide the foundation on which their elders pirouette with brass flutters, quacks, snorts, spits and blusters. Rastig, of course, imbued jazz through his DNA, while Matthias only rarely uses the sort of squeaky sul ponticello slides or double stopping col legno runs that elsewhere make his reputation in New chamber music. Instead, often operating contrapuntally with the pianist’s comping, he thumps, slaps and walks.
Although Conrad with East Berlin’s Zentralquartett, and Johannes in trans-continental outfits featuring everyone from British bassist Barry Guy to German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, slide the trombone into avant-garde’s farthest, moistest reaches, both haven’t ignored the extended jazz tradition. Swinging “Privat 12” for instance, with its intersecting double counterpoint slurs harkens back to the slurping lines of earlier expressive ‘bone men like Jack Teagarden and Jimmy Harrison.
Tracks like “Privat 8” and “Privat 3” are even more illuminating. With one trombonist elaborating smooth, legato tones and the other whining, vibrating and trilling as if playing a saxophone, each shores up the other’s improvisations. More remarkably, following passages of virtually identical sounds with only minor variations in pitch, the brothers exchange roles. The staccato sprayer creates slushy puffs, while the smooth romantic slashes his tones into shards of consecutive triplets.
The Bauer clan obviously keeps improv excellence All in the Family.
-- Ken Waxman
September 15, 2008
Two more valuable CD reissues of Wuppertal, Germany-based saxophonist Peter Brötzmanns work for FMP in the 1980s once again show his versatility. One disk offers proof positive that the hard-driving reedist can easily hold up his side in an all-star trio configuration, while the other shows how he helps spark aural fireworks in a nonet situation.
Ironically the aptly-named Alarm almost ended up being more than a fanciful blast from the past. This Hamburg radio gig with a multi-national cast of nine Free Jazzers had to be interrupted after the 40 odd minutes captured on the disc were recorded because a phoned-in bomb threat meant that the audience, technicians and musicians had to quickly evacuate the hall.
Lacking the extra-musical drama of the other date, Pica Pica is just as incendiary, with Brötzmann playing tenor, baritone and alto saxophones and tarogato as one part of a little-recorded trio. His front-line partner is veteran trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, then in the most experimental phase of his long career, but the real surprise is the presence of Günter Baby Sommer on traps set and horn. Like Han Bennink of the Netherlands
Brotzs usual percussion partner Sommer is an all-around drum master. Unlike Bennink, he resides in East Berlin, on the other side of the then-existing wall, so he was just starting to interact with non-East Block players.
You couldnt tell that from this session. Sommers tambourine shuddering cymbal raps, intense cross sticking and triplet flams and rattles add heaving tension to the tunes, which take on new dimensions when he releases the beat. As the trombonist and reedist bluster away on two long improvisations and the short title track, Sommer contributes blunt polyrhythms, using sticks, brushes, palms and fists to provide vivid brush strokes of aural color. The jokey and jittery Pica, Pica makes the greatest use of the drummers faux parade-drill timing. But his harsh ruffs and bulldozer-like press rolls are in evidence throughout.
Rotating among his horns like a mini-reed section Brötzmann spins from steady air raid siren glossolalia on alto to inchoate, near bagpipe-like timbres on tarogato and slurry and smeary reed undulations on baritone. His characteristic stratospheric glottal punctuation is often evident, as are his mouse-squeaking altissimo tones. Once, when he seems to be soloing on two different horns, it becomes apparent that the secondary timbres are from Sommers horn.
Articulating chromatic grace notes and whinnying plunger tones, Mangelsdorffs triple-tongued slurs make common cause with the saxophonists staccato phrasing. Often accompanying as well as soloing, his pedal-point lilt sneaks in a common Bop riff at the end of Wie Du Mir, So Ich Dir Noch Lange Nicht to keep the proceedings on track as the piece downshifts to muted harmony.
Triple the brass, reed and rhythm on Pica Pica, and you approximate the cacophonous polyphony that arises during Alarms extended title track. Surprise at this explosion is a moot but definitely not a mute point when you consider the other players. The rhythm section is made up of German Free Jazz big band leader Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano plus two European-domiciled South African expatriates, bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo. Brass was Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo who would reunite with Brötz for the Die Like A Dog band in the 1990s and two trombonists: modern gutbucket stylist, East German Johannes Bauer, and British trombonist Alan Tomlinson, who was also a member of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
Joining Brötzmann on reeds is Willem Breuker from the Netherlands, then (1981) closer to his Free Jazz roots than his later composerly stance; plus American tenor saxophonist Frank Wright, a first generation New Thinger then part of the burgeoning Yank jazzmen-in-Europe-Diaspora.
Driven by the dense and unyielding rhythm section that in Millers case also encompasses shuffle-bowing tremolo and stretched sul ponticello jetes the massed band exposes the robust theme, variations of which are utilized by the horn section as linking motifs that connect the solos. And what solos they are.
Von Schlippenbach is at his most manic, turning high-intensity pummeling into a metronomic fantasia of exaggerated note clusters and patterns. Kondo contributes half-valve squeezes and brassy slurs, while the stop-time dual trombone theatrics include guttural, spittle-encrusted blasts and metal-scraping concussive expansion.
Not that the reedists are outdone. Except for an off-kilter, a capella raggedy march is it a mess call or a mail call? the majority of the saxophone timbres undulate almost physically. Parlando and flutter tonguing, each of three saxmen at times gets involved in double counterpoint with an individual brass player until hyper-fast piano motifs push the tune forward. Slip-sliding, roller-coaster-like coils and twists are expressed by both horn families, as are snorting, basement-level expositions and shrill altissimo timbres. Eventually the high-level pan-tonality gives way to conclusive slurs.
While its difficult to isolate individual soloist, theres no doubt that its Wright who sings the jivey lyrics to his own brief Jerry Sacem. A rhythmic blues, the undemanding melody and Moholos backbeat easily speed the audience outside the studio without anyone being panicked about the purported bomb threat.
Luckily this part of the concert was preserved. It, along with the other CD fills in some gaps in European Free Jazz history. But both are exhilarating listening as well.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Alarm: 1. Alarm Part 1 2. Alarm Part 2 3. Jerry Sacem
Personnel: Alarm: Toshinori Kondo (trumpet); Johannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson (trombones); Willem Breuker (alto and tenor saxophones); Peter Brötzmann (tenor and alto saxophone); Frank Wright (tenor saxophone); Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano); Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums)
Track Listing: Pica: 1. Instant Tears 2. Wie Du Mir, So Ich Dir Noch Lange Nicht 3. Pica, Pica
Personnel: Pica: Albert Mangelsdorff (trombones); Peter Brötzmann (tenor, baritone and alto saxophones and tarogato) and Günter Baby Sommer (drums and horn)
November 14, 2006
#40 Vienna & #41 Bernbeuren 2003
X-OR FR 013
Trombone, saxophone, bass and drums isnt a standard combo configuration and when its put together as on these sessions, its because the musicians involved are looking for a particular sound. Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer helped create one rough archetype with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan or tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims in the 1950s, while trombonist Roswell Rudd in partnership with either soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, alto saxophonist John Tchicai or tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp solidified the prototype from the 1960s on.
Essentially, the contrapuntal design for this partnership contrasts the limited gravelly slurs available from the trombone with the pliant tones, pitches and textures supplied by the woodwinds many keys. The German-Dutch FourinOne band and Italian Daniele DAgaros American quartet take from this tradition and reinterpret it to fit their own idiosyncrasies. Both revel in contrast between shrill and sonorous.
Playing his own compositions plus selected lines from Duke Ellington, Curtis Cark and Leadbelly, the Udine-based DAgaro extends the conception with Free Jazz touches on tenor saxophone and clarinet. Hes helped immeasurably by the versatility of trombonist Job Bishop, formerly of the Vandermark5; bassist Kent Kessler, a longtime Vandermark collaborator, and seemingly ageless drummer Robert Barry, who played with Sun Ra early on.
Moving beyond the song form of Lacy, Shepp and even Ra, FourinOnes numerically titled free improvisations converge on extended techniques propelled by Den Haag-based tenor saxophonist Luc Houtkamp, who also composes computer-based music; Berlin-based trombonist Johannes Bauer, who combines primitive effects with futuristic touches; and the steady rhythm of two other Germans: bassist Dieter Manderscheid and drummer Martin Blume.
A slice of localized Freebop that begins the DAgaro CD, Chicago Beer Coaster picks up the Rudd-Shepp vibe after about one minute of buzzing sax and bone tones, and develops into a first class lope as soon as the bassist and drummer enter. Ricocheting between pseudo-gutbucket and mid-range JJ Johnson-inflected grace notes, Bishops voicing shares space with altissimo split tones from the tenor saxist,
DAgaro, whose playing partners included bassist Ernst Glerum and drummer Han Bennink during his years in Amsterdam, knows how to wield his axe, an expression particularly apt when playing Leadbellys Dicks Holler or Chicago blues. But hes equally facile on clarinet, the unison voicing of which with Bishop, favorably suggests the Lacy-Rudd soprano-trombone mix.
A sympathetic recasting of saxophonist Clifford Jordans version of the tune, Dicks Holler features Bishop playing a gruff pedal-point obbligato to the saxophonists false registers altissimo, as Barry contributes rim-shot action and Kessler steady patterning. Meanwhile, American-in-Amsterdam pianist Curtis Clarks Barry K begins with an understated drum solo then evolves into a hard boppy line, with the galloping horns trading call-and-response riffs and a couple of jokey false endings. Episodes in Ellingtonia bring out romantic, Ben Webster-like echoes from the saxman, although his experimental clarinet playing is decades removed from what Jimmy Hamilton or Barney Bigard did with the Duke.
On his own Ultramarine #13 for instance, DAgaro uses squeaky quivers and slurred split tones to wind around Bishops sharp, blustery exhortations, then to harmonize with the brassman on top of Barrys cymbal plinks, the result of striking the instrument with the whisks handles. At points resembling New music, DAgaro wraps things up with a quivering contralto texture. Alternately, Dog Nose in the Kitchen, an unpredictable group composition, features the Italians peeping, then melodious, clarinet line merging with plunger tones from Bishop. As the tune accelerates, mid-range slurs and flutter-tonguing squeals from the reedist, redefine themselves as shrill whistles to contrast with as the trombonists blustery wah-wah action.
Heir to the Teutonic Free Jazz tradition of stylists such as his older brother Conrad, as well as the sort of primitive-modernism practiced by Rudd, FourinOnes Bauer carves out a place for himself in the company of Manderscheid, who has worked extensively with saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and Blume, whose regular playing partners have ranged from violinist Phil Wachsmann to vocalist Phil Minton. Wild card is Houtkamp, whose intuitive soloing encompasses a variety of guises.
Most instructively, all four are loosest on the more-than-27-minute 40a, recorded in a Viennese jazz club, which is borne in on a wave of cacophony thats equal parts roaring bone pressure, discordant tongue slaps and pitch vibrations from the reedist, rattling rim shots from the drummer and resonating bass thumps
Understated horn actions eventually intermingle the way squabbling children do at a playground with an extended dialogue of cries and howls. Bubbly tremolo smears from Bauer presage internal buzzes and body tube expansion from Houtkamp. Unperturbed, and solid like Kessler on CHICAGO OVERTONES Manderscheid walks up and down his strings, while Blume contributes door-knocking rhythms.
Changing his accompaniment to rolls and flams, the drummer encourages granular slurs from Bauer, which evolve into gutbucket wah wahs, expanded with node vibrations. Halting a downward note spiral, the two horns soon match one another, honk for honk, trill for trill and tongue stop for tongue stop. At the tracks mid-point both hornmen bury themselves in their respective valves or keys, pushing out angry retorts as if theyre voicing a surreal Punch and Judy show. Starkly slicing notes to the bone, its up to the rhythm section to keep the tune moving which they do with pitch suggestions from glass armonicas, marimbas and other ratcheted instruments.
Sluicing, spitty triplets from Bauer, squeals and glottal punctuation from Houtkamp arise as the bassist strums and the drummer pulses. Climaxing as a mini-recital of shifting tonal centres, the pieces final variation evolves from balanced moderato to harsh spiccato on Manderscheids part that coalescing bubbling Bronx cheers from Bauer and thin air expiration from the reedist.
Longer and shorter variations on these avant-themes, the other improvisations show off more buzzing and rumbling mixed with the odd grace note and vibrato-laden phrases. Polyphonic and contrapuntal, cross blowing from the saxist and irregular blasts from the trombonist are enhanced by the inventiveness of the other two which includes the bassist strumming chromatic guitar-like lines and the drummers pitches and beats arising from what in other circumstances could be a djembe, a balophone or a whirl drum.
Whether expanding the sounds of trombone-sax ensembles like the New York Art Quartet or creating unique textures with extended techniques, both bands confirm the viability of this original configuration.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: #40: 1. #41a 2. #41b 3. #41c 4. #40a 5. #40b
Personnel: #40: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Luc Houtkamp (tenor saxophone); Dieter Manderscheid (bass); Martin Blume (percussion)
Track Listing: Chicago: 1. Chicago Beer Coaster 2. Ultramarine #13 3. Sweet Zurzday 4. LArgaro Freschio 5. Long Armed Woman 6. Dog Nose in the Kitchen 7. Dicks Holler 8. Barry K 9. Melancholia
Personnel: Chicago: Jeb Bishop (trombone); Daniele DAgaro (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Kent Kessler (bass); Robert Barry (drums)
November 7, 2005
Barry Guy New Orchestra
Maya Homburger & Barry Guy with Pierre Favre
By Ken Waxman
September 11, 2005
Established as one of FreeImprovs most accomplished composer/bandleaders as well as a major improvising double bassist, Barry Guy continues to extend his musical range.
Having slimmed down his main compositional tool, the 17-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) to the more compact 10 piece, all-star Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGO), Oort Entropy shows how the group reconstitutes specific sounds. The idea is to expand musical elements initially conceived for Guys trio with American pianist Marilyn Crispell and British drummer Paul Lytton.
Dakryon, on the other hand, explores an even more diminutive facet of his art. A member of an Early Music ensemble early in his career, Guy extends those concepts on several tracks of this CD. Using themes written by composers H.I.F. Biber and Dario Castello in the 17th century, these performances are in part baroque showcases for Guys wife, Swiss violinist May Homburger. Filling out the nearly 75-minute CD are contemporary Guy compositions eliciting the skills of the husband-and-wife duo plus Swiss drummer Pierre Favre.
Favre, another first generation Free player, recorded as guest with the LJCO in 1995 as did Crispell. On Dakryon, he contributes a concluding less-than-two minute percussion solo and on one track with just Guy. However, the most noteworthy trio outing is the almost 19½-minute title track which appends pre-recorded sounds to improvisations.
Beginning with sonorous bass plucks, spiccato swells and lower-case drum rumbles, Dakryon expands into swirling interface from Homburger, harder and stronger pizzicato pulls from Guy and rattling and extruded accents from Favre. With pre-recorded chiming accents ornamented with percussion and a near Middle-Eastern interlude of bowed and vibrated double bass notes, the fiddler then contemplatively sounds the melody as ring modulator gong-like signals multiply. Eventually faint drum thumps help bring the ethereal extensions to a logical conclusion.
Favres multi-timbral drum kit augmentation allow him to rattle bells, shake cymbals and bounce snares behind Guys measured, almost lute-like rasgueado bass work on Peace Piece. Impressionistic, Favres sympathetic mallet work frames the bassists chromatic plucks so that each note echo is like a thrust with a finely honed dagger incisive, but with no jagged edges.
Much of the CDs remaining time is taken up by Homburger or Homburger and Guy performing works by two 17th century composers, Bohemian H. I. F. Biber (1644-1704) and Venetian Dario Castello (? - 1658). Biber, whose work was also recorded by the two on Ceremony (ECM), is best-known for his so-called Mystery Sonatas from about 1676, five of which are handled here.
Those compositions, plus other baroque inventions by Castello, take advantage of the violinists exquisite tone and phrasing. Legato mostly, staccato and spiccato sometimes, Homburger does more than replicate the proper harmonies. Taking advantage of the composers demand for scordatura or re-tuning, she brings a semi-mystical emotionalism to the pieces. True to 17th century basso continuo, Guy interweaves distinctive harmonies, both arco and pizzicato, which reflect his contemporary mindset as well as appropriate baroque techniques.
Moving from the 17th to the 21st century, Oort Entropy shows how the bassist gives all his soloists and ensemble scope to spontaneously expand past customary boundaries. This is where a cross-section of experiences and cultures comes into play, since nearly every improviser is a veteran from a different country.
Parker and Lyttons long-time trio-mate, Londoner Evan Parker is featured on tenor and soprano saxophones. The other reeds are Swiss bass clarinetist Hans Koch, who collaborates with numerous other free improvisers, and Swedish tenor and baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, who is part of the GUSH trio with percussionist Raymond Strid, also featured here. Gustafsson and Swedish tubaist Per Åke Holmlander are part of Peter Brötzmanns Tentet. German trombonist Johannes Bauer has played with everyone from Brötzmann to Australian violinist Jon Rose, while American trumpeter/flugelhornist Herb Robertson is now a member of drummer Gerry Hemingways quartet. Taking over BGOs all-important piano chair from Crispell is Catalan Augustí Fernánderz, who has recorded with players as different in concept as reedist Parker and American bassist William Parker.
All stars are all right for a jam session, but its Guys framework which gives the 10 a structure within to operate. Especially when the pianist is most energetic, the performance relates to some of Cecil Taylors efforts with big bands. Other large groups brought to mind are Count Basies New Testament band for the riffing saxes Stan Kentons most jazz-like ensembles for the flaunted brass passages and most definitely Charles Mingus The Black and the Sinner Lady band, in the way the bass-lead ensemble leaps from dissonance to relaxation.
Nonetheless there are also plenty of surprises on tap as the three-part suite uncoils. True, Parker shows off his near-patented circular breathing, but theres a point in Part II, where his introduction is positively Lesterian as in Lester Young. Fernánderz may strum arpeggios and chord edgy tremolos, but hes also capable of an andante fantasia, constant cadenzas and clinking single-notes.
Besides braying triplets, Robertson adds half-valve, hunting horn sonics that meld with penetrating tuba pedal tones. Plus the penultimate minutes of Part III feature Lytton and Strid eschewing their previous roles as colorists for a wholesale double drum volley, alive with paradiddles, rebounds and ruffs, as the horns blast vamps around them. Do you think they individually owned the famous Rich vs. Roach LP?
Kochs individualistic slurs and snorts give the exposition many of its colors, suspended on top of buzzing notes and stop time emphasis from the brass. Meanwhile altissimo blusters or contrapuntal bass tones from the tuba depict the tincture of the final section.
All and all though, among the polyphonic interludes, Bauer emerges as the most consistently invigorating soloist. Like many post-Roswell Rudd stylists, he has one foot in the early gutbucket tradition and the other in post-modern New music. Balanced solidly by Guys architecturally-solid tonal centres that allow each instrument to be heard, he ascends with a series of buzzing and barking textures to a legato chromatic solo, then just as briskly drips burred notes one at a time as he descends the scale.
Depending on whether you want your Guy in a miniature setting or piloting a large, integrated ensemble, either CD or both can satisfy.
September 12, 2005
RAPHE MALIK QUARTET
Last Set: Live at the 1369 Jazz Club
Boxholder BXH 042
BRÖTZMANN CLARINET PROJECT
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 246CD
Getting an understanding of the situation for committed free improvisers in Europe as opposed to the United States in the mid-1980s is pretty obvious when listening to these two live CDs, recorded about two months apart, both of which happen to have William Parker in the bass chair.
In early November 1984, German reedist Peter Brötzmann put together an international, all-star, 11-piece Clarinet Project for a special concert in a Berlin theatre as part of that citys Jazzfest. Beside himself the clarinetists were Tony Coe from England, Louis Sclavis from France, East German Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and J. D. Parran and John Zorn from the U.S. But thats not all. The ensemble also included Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, East German Johannes Bauer and Briton Alan Tomlinson on trombones, with British drummer Tony Oxley supplying the bottom along with Parker. By all accounts the one lengthy piece was welcomed by the audience.
Across the ocean in Boston, hometown boy trumpeter Raphe Malik was doing a series of local club dates with a trio filled out by Parker and drummer Syd Smart. This CD, recorded at Cambridges 1369 Jazz Club, is particularly notable, since the trio was joined by pioneering New Thing tenor saxophonist Frank Wright in his only Boston-area gig. A long-time expatriate and Paris resident, Wright died in 1990. Here too the audience is enthusiastic, but you get the feeling that for most Bostonians -- heck, Americans -- this performance could be dismissed as just another club date by players too stubborn to adopt the fashionable fusion or neo-con styles of the time.
Unsurprisingly -- for pertinent pure improv is about a lot more than in-the-moment fashion and audience accessibility -- both performances feature considerable musical values that recommend them.
Take LAST SET for instance. Undeterred by the fact that this was just another club date, Malik, Wright, Parker and Smart give their all. Maybe they didnt know how to improvise any other way. Wright especially is so caught in the moment that when hes not forcing out emotional reed riffs he vocalizes quasi-verbal exhortations during the others solos.
This mostly tales place on Companions #2, the almost 30-minute centrepiece of the disc. Performed hell-bent-for-leather, it shows that neither front-line partner had lost any efficacy from his so-called 1960s (Wright) or 1970s (Malik) prominence.
From the beginning, Wright slurs and slides and growls and overblows, putting R&B-flavored mid-range vibrated snorts and deeper-pitched honks into his solo. As he mutates variations of the blaring theme, he masticates sounds from the lowest section of his horns bow up to the cork attached to his mouthpiece. Maliks broken octave accompaniment converges with rapid, spiky triplets and sprightly hide-and-seek timbres.
As the trumpeter solos, Wright, caught up in the moment, begins a weird sort of Free Jazz style vocalizing filled with mumbled asides, Bronx cheers and lip trumpet action. Behind him Parkers speedy arco line reaches a sul ponticello crescendo, while Smart, who labors as a public school teacher as well as playing as a valued local musician, uses his bass drum and sock cymbal to resonate heavy nerve beats and drum paradiddles.
One climax is reached as Malik spews machine-gun style triplets that are soon joined by Wrights irregularly voiced tenor. As the saxmans mid-tempo variations on the theme turn to variations on variations -- featuring only a few R&B snorts -- Malik come up with a separate, but complementary theme of sweet, high-pitched grace notes and some bugle-call intimations. Swaying spiccato from the bassist slow the tune down for the finale with splattered triplets from Malik serving as the coda.
Featuring heraldic trumpeting from Malik, double-tongued fanfares and the odd satisfied grunt from Wright, Sad C, the first track, is more of the same. However, Chaser the final number is an exercise in freebop, which judging from its title, may be a contrafact, with a new head superimposed upon the existing set of changes from Monks Straight, No Chaser.
Wrights influences are blusier than bop, however, and his slurred pitch and wide vibrato encourages Malik to sound plunger-focused theme variations as Parker walks and Smart plays a shuffle. Ever heard finger-popping Free Jazz? Here is it in volume. Soon the reedist is snorting raucous riffs over and over again as Malik shrills rubato broken chords in tandem with him. Pedal point chortles and bubbling colored air confirm that the band is still in free territory, but the audience reacts as if it was in attendance at a James Brown performance.
With three times the brass capability and six times the reed power, Brötzmann and companys polyphony has much more volume but about the same amount of energy as Maliks quartet on its single almost 50-minute piece. Strangely for a clarinet showcase, the CD begins with a Scottish bagpipe-type air from Brötzmanns tarogoto thats quickly joined by the wavering pitch of the other reeds, including Sclavis wiggling bass clarinet.
Using tongue slaps for emphasis, the themes first development leaves the rhythm section to cleave to the bottom as the horns increase the volume while spurting squeaks and trills. One quarter of the way through, the brass finally asserts itself, with elephant-like trumpeting plus hippo-like snorts and snores from the trombone. Cutting through the responding reed pitches are oddball, vocalized static and whistles, probably courtesy of Zorns clarinet mouthpieces. Playing entire passages in ear-splitting altissimo, he alternates harsh raspberries, duck-like quacks and plush toy squeaky timbres. Oxleys anvil-like bass drum blows and clip-clop cymbal tempos keep things on an even keel until a parlando trombone solo, possibly from Bauer, rouses the audiences applause.
As Parkers strums and Oxleys rhythmic power reins in the jagged peaks and valleys of the horn lines, one sibilant romantic tone supersedes the others. Probably from the clarinet of Coe, whose experience encompasses studio and commercial big band work as well as freer episodes, it provides a moderating influence on the contrapuntal discord around him that starts to resemble ornithological mealtime. With the muted bones supplying rubato counterpoint, the reeds form quivering accordion-like harmonies leading to a finale of sky-high honks and twitters.
The bassists screechy sul ponticello lines and the drummers irregular patterning on cow bell, wood block and ride cymbal seem merely an afterthought or solo reward for yeoman accompaniment service. Recapitulating the beginning, Brötzmann reintroduces the tarogato and attempts, on pure lung power, to go one-on-one with Oxley. Percussion strength barely triumphs, but only because a posse of other reeds joins in for a postlude of polytonal split tones.
A singular experience BERLIN DJUNGLE produces some memorable textures and must be admired for Bötzmanns decision to broaden his compositional range. Yet LAST SET also proves that plenty of good music was also being produced far from the spotlight, and which -- like this session -- has only been preserved by happenstance.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Berlin: 1. What A Day First Part 2. What A Day Second Part
Personnel: Berlin: Toshinori Kondo (trumpet); Johannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson (trombones); Peter Brötzmann (clarinet, tenor saxophone and tarogato); Tony Coe, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, J. D. Parran (clarinets); Louis Sclavis (clarinet and bass clarinet); John Zorn (clarinet and mouthpieces); William Parker (bass); Tony Oxley (drums)
Track Listing: Last 1. Sad C 2. Companions #2 3. Chaser
Personnel: Last: Raphe Malik (trumpet); Frank Wright (tenor saxophone and voice); William Parker (bass); Syd Smart (drums)
February 28, 2005
GIANLUIGI TROVESI OTTETTO
GLOBE UNITY ORCHESTRA
Globe Unity 2002
Intakt CD 086
One potential horror comedians are always joking about is a world where the transportation schedules would be set by the Italians and the restaurants run by the British and Germans.
As humorous as this may sound as a situation, these CDs by mid-sized (eight- and nine-piece) bands shows that remarkable sounds can still result if countrymen act antithetically to their clichéd national characteristics.
FUGACE finds eight legendarily anarchistic Italians settling down for 16 short, arranged improvisations that touch on a variety of genres. Conversely, GLOBE UNITY 2002 features nine supposedly restrained Britons and Germans creating almost 74 minutes of some of the most cacophonous hullabaloo since John Coltrane and 10 other improvisers recorded ASCENSION in 1965.
As a matter of fact, Globe Unity, (the band) has always been in the tradition of all-out passionate expression that characterized 1960s aggregations like the Jazz Composers Orchestra, with the added fillip of being international. Over the years since the bands first LP in 1966, membership has swollen to a high of 19, with American, Italian, Dutch and Polish musicians included, until it officially disbanded in 1986.
This one-time, live concert reunion 15 years later finds most of the longtime Globers on hand and confirms that the spirit and excitement the band engendered in its lifetime still exists. As well, 30 years on, a serene quantity has crept into some of the playing.
Leader Alexander von Schlippenbach, for instance, may begin the proceedings with intense, emotional, Romantic arpeggios, but during the course of the one long piece here hell relax into almost conventional jazz club comping and fills. Then when it comes time for his extended solo, his playing seems more bop-like and connected than the style of his first influence, Thelonious Monk. He uses careful voicing and portamento to glide across the keyboard. Building up tension in the Free Jazz sense with serpentine chords and echoing vibrations, his swiftness can resemble that of a player piano. Yet his unaccompanied coda is near pastoral, well modulated and definitely two-handed.
Trumpeter and, flugelhornist Manfred Schoof, who started off as a German version of a so-called Progressive jazzman, reverts to form in his solo spots. At one point he reveals long-lined patterned and focused grace notes that evolve to note-perfect brassy triplets, at another builds up mellow flugelhorn filigree, which when combined with the backing orchestral figures recall MILES AHEAD.
Others have intensified the way they first played 30 years ago. Evan Parker offers a five-minute plus exhibition of louder and softer circular breathing from his soprano sax, that appears to have an unmistakable bagpipe echo. Meantime fellow Briton, trombonist Paul Rutherford, growls and mumbles and rants within his trombone bell, with his snorts and Bronx cheers finally calling forth dampening metallic rim shot action and cymbal crashes from the dual percussionists. His direct musical descendent, German trombonist Johannes Bauer, also exhibits some double-tongued slurs backed with only piano accompaniment.
Dissonance, in all its ear-wrenching glory still inhabits the playing of the two remaining horn men though: Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute and Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone, tarogato and clarinet. One reedist -- though likely not Parker -- ejaculates some split-tone altissimo squeaks near the beginning of the extended piece, the likes of which havent been heard since the heyday of Giuseppi Logan. Much later, peeping tarogato timbres meet up with woody bass clarinet tones, arching from dog-whistle to bird trilling territory.
Then theres a point just past midway where the Ascension-style total band hubbub slackens to expose a protracted series of screeches and multiphonic blasts from the tenormen. The yells and applause from the audience makes it appear that for it, this was the highpoint equivalent of Paul Gonsalves protracted solo on Duke Ellingtons Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blues at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.
As all this is going on, the proper tempo for clangorous explosions and feather light interludes is provided by the Pauline duo on percussion -- Englands Paul Lytton and Germanys Paul Lovens.
Trovesis Ottetto features two drummers as well, but thats about the only symmetry between the two sessions. Old enough -- he was born in 1944 near Bergamo -- to be part of the Globe Unity generation, multi-reedist Trovesi mixed his jazz with studio work earlier in his career. Part of the first generation of Southern European musicians to assert themselves internationally, Trovesi is known for his folklore-tinged work with trumpeter Pino Minafra, and membership in the all-star Italian Instabile Orchestra, which also includes ex-Globe Unity trumpeter Enrico Rava.
Like his other octet sessions though, FUGACE resides in a space of its own, where traditional Italian operatic drama coexists with improvisation, and where the references include veteran local comic Totò as well as Louis Armstrong. Thus on the three-part Totò nei Caraibi, as the pizzicato plucking of the three string players suggests a cartoon cat sneaking across the horizon, other sounds form the band reference a funeral march and echo calypsos.
In the same way, Ramble begins with a note-perfect Dixieland emulation with the drummers exercising their kits with ratamacues and a clip-clop rhythm like duple Baby Dodds, as Trovesi on clarinet makes like Babys older brother -- and Armstrong associate -- Johnny. But trumpeter Massimo Greco reaches for augmented notes too modern for Satchmo, the clarinet is soon trilling in a modernistic folk style reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre, and youd never hear Marco Remondinis arco cello slices anywhere in Trad Jazz. Blasts from trombonist Beppe Caruso, who leads his own fine brass band, form a countermelody that doubles and triples the tempo until the end.
In contrast to the Globe Unity veterans, the reedists is a younger band, made up in the main of musicians who have played with him for about a decade. With Remondini and percussionist Fluvio Maras adding electronics to the mix the Trovesi Eight proffers some unique textures, including a series of linking interludes that sound as if they were created on an electrified harpsichord that snuck in from a Yardbirds session. Thus while Trovesi may sometimes echo Benny Goodman and the unison string section get a bit overwrought in the 1,001 strings tradition, plenty of other slants arise as well.
Blues and West for instance, starts off with enough reverb from the electronica and electric bass slaps plus monochromic drumming to make it sound like a rock band has invaded the studio. In between riffing horns, Trovesi on alto creates some cosmic bop-inflected squeals and Greco plays a soaring, slurred trumpet line. Canto di lavoro goes in the opposite direction. It starts off with an Armstrong-like trumpet cadenza, introduces chalumeau clarinet trills and finishes with a sound that ping-pongs from outer-space whistles from the electronics, and someone, somehow -- perhaps the top strings of the electric bass -- producing a quivering Jimi Hendrix-like electric guitar distortion.
Massed horn riffs often appear to be half banda and half James Browns horn section, Trovesis split tone can often take on a distinctive Arabic inflection and the dual backbeat, if from hand drums, can be as much Savannah as Sardinia.
Improvised music has become such an all-encompassing category that a group can perform in a variety of ways to produce outstanding music, despite national clichés. Globe Unity and the Ottetto demonstrate two excellent versions of these methods.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Fugace: 1. As strange as a ballad 2. Sogno dOrfeo African Triptych: 3. Wide Lake 4. Scarlet Dunes 5. Western Dream 6. Canto di lavoro 7. Clumsy dancing of the fat bird 8. Siparietto I 9. Blues and West 10. Siparietto II 11. Il Domatore 12. Ramble 13. Siparietto III 14. Fugace 15. Siparietto IV 16. Totò nei Caraibi
Personnel: Fugace: Massimo Greco (trumpet, electronics); Beppe Caruso (trombone); Gianluigi Trovesi (alto saxophone, piccolo, alto clarinets); Marco Remondini (cello, electronic); Roberto Bonati (bass); Marco Micheli (bass, electric bass); Fluvio Maras (percussion, electronics); Vittorio Marinoni (drums)
Track Listing: Globe: 1. Globe Unity 2002
Personnel: Globe: Manfred Schoof (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paul Rutherford and Johannes Bauer (trombones); Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (alto saxophone, clarinet, flute); Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, tarogato, clarinet); Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton (drums)
December 1, 2003
Random Acoustics RA 026
Named as if it was a Thelonious Monk tribute band, FOURinONE is actually a European collective dedicated to instant composition. Made up of three virtuoso Germans and a dedicated Dutchman, all of this more than 65 minute CD shows how well the products of four top-flight improvisers can blend together into a coherent whole.
While each performer is a virtuoso able to push his instrument to its perceived limits -- and beyond -- the organization and timing of the combo is such that when needed they can all stop on a dime, or maybe that should be a mark or a guilder. Throughout, the band is able to demonstrate its talents and telepathy, whether it be on "Enchantment", the nearly 28 minute first tune or the less than three minute title track.
One of the best-known Teutonic trombone trailblazers, along with his older brother Konrad, Johannes Bauer often switches from mutes to blaring open horn within a single solo. Using lip trills and concentrating on the lower part of the 'bone's range on "Enchantment", he builds up ascending stairsteps of sound until, double and triple tonguing, he turns to multiphonic blats and definite slide movements. Soon he's vocalizing, then whinnying like a horse through his instrument. The performance is so overpowering that it's often a while before you notice that Martin Blume has been accompanying the solo with subtle drum patterns.
This methodology is used later on as well, allowing the four to split into two duos -- trombone and drums and saxophone and bass -- then join up again like the dancers in a Busby Berkeley choreographed movie showcase. On "Herenboekje, berenhoekje, boerenhekje" the converse comes into play, as the four collectively improvise like stallions linked in a stagecoach team.
Split second interaction shouldn't be a surprise, since the four have been playing as a unit since 1997 and worked singly or in twos or three in other bands. Coming together like a Continental Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, drummer Martin Blume and bassist Dieter Manderscheid have also been the rhythm section for band headed by reedman Frank Gratkowski and vocalist Phil Minton. In fact, there are times when the two construct a perfect freebop pattern in the background without detracting from the soloists.
Leaving the interactive music software he has developed since the mid-1980s home in the Netherlands, saxophonist Luc Houtkamp dedicates himself to his reed instrument here. He's an advocate of extended techniques, moving the likes of slap tonguing and shakes from their vaudeville roots into free improv. Often, as on the atmospheric "Pause - oder was", his solos consist of infinitesimal bird-like chirps. Other times he'll increase intensity by continuously pushing more and more notes into a strongman-like display of circular breathing.
Although the notes say STELEN was recorded in Cologne's Loft there's no applause at the end of each track, probably due to time considerations. There should be, since this disc is a fine achievement.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Enchantment 2. Stelen 3. Vielleicht ist nichts völlig wahr, und selbst das nicht 4. Herenboekje, berenhoekje, boerenhekje, ... 5. Pause - oder was?
Personnel: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Luc Houtkamp (alto and tenor saxophones); Dieter Manderscheid (bass); Martin Blume (drums)
May 31, 2001