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