Reviews that mention Axel Dörner

April 23, 2020

Axel Dörner & Tomaž Grom

Omejeno gibanje/Confined Movement
Zavod Sploh ZASCD 19

Sylvain Kassap/Benjamin Duboc

Le Funambule

Dark Tree DT 12

Stripped down to a single horn and a double bass are two improvisational CDs that source extraordinary textures despite the instruments’ supposed tonal limitations. Savvy and specific, each of players involved uses distinct techniques to stretch past conventions to create distinctive animation. Le Funambule or The Tightrope Walker features two French specialists in this delicate art, bassist Benjamin Duboc, who has worked with the likes of Daunik Lazro and Eve Risser, and Sylvain Kassap, whose clarinet skill have been challenged by playing with experimenters such as Günter “Baby” Sommer and Hamid Drake. Multinational, Omejeno gibanje/Confined Movement is a meeting between Slovenian bassist Tomaž Grom who plays with Zlatko Kaučič and Michel Doneda among others, and German trumpeter Axel Dörner whose list of exploratory associates is nearly limitless. MORE

February 8, 2020

El Intruso’s

12th Annual International Critics Poll
Ken Waxman’s 2019 ballot

Musician of the year: Joe McPhee

Newcomer Musician: Timothée Quost, Gaspard Beck

Group of the year: Roots Magic, Tonus, Joe McPhee Trio

Newcomer group: MétamOrphée

Album of the year: Quatuor de Jazz Libre Du Québec, Musique Politique Anthologie 1971-1974 (Tour de Bras) Uri Caine, The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

Composer: Roscoe Mitchell, Uri Caine, Harris Eisenstad

Drums; Gerald Cleaver, Steve Noble, Tim Daisy

Acoustic Bass Joëlle Léandre, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips MORE

November 17, 2019

Axel Dörner/Toshimaru Nakanura

In Cotton and Wool
Ftarri ftarari-980

Arashi

Jikan

PNL Records PNL 045

Toyozumi~Countryman

Sol Abstraction

Sol Disk SD 1901

Tim Olive & Yan Jun

Brother of Divinity

845 Audio 845-10

Kang Tang Hwan/Midori Takada

An Eternal Moment

NoBusiness Records NBCD 115

Something in the Air: Japanese Improvisation Moves Far Beyond its Island Base

By Ken Waxman

Legendary as the country where every type of Western music has some followers and where every disc extant is rumored to exist in some form or another, Japan likewise has a healthy Jazz and Free Music scene. This appreciation extends to home-grown improvisers, but few are known throughout the larger musical world. Not only do these discs demonstrate how this situation is changing as Asian players interact with more Westerners, but some outsider players have also moved there since they found the country’s audiences sympathetic to their music. MORE

October 18, 2019

Axel Dörner/Seijiro Murayama

Duo Chandos
SIND_052019-1

Nicolas Souchal/Fred Marty

Saillances

Free Sonne mf 006

Two voyages to the furthest reaches of plant trumpet find two European explorers testing the limits of time and space in vastly different but similarly profound duo situations. Expressing their interpretations that emphasis the diffuse rather than specific brass characteristic of their instruments are French trumpet/flugelhornist Nicolas Souchal and German slide trumpeter Axel Dörner. Dörner, who has played with everyone from Rudi Mahall to Evan Parker, is a veteran genre-shatterer, and this time his partner is Japanese soundsinger Seijiro Murayama, who lives in France, and plays with Jean-Luc Guionnet and Éric La Casa among others. Slightly younger, Souchal, who plays with other experimenters like Jean-Brice Godet and Yoram Rosilio, is joined by bassist Fred Marty, who has worked with Frédéric Blondy and Lê Quan Ninh, among many others. MORE

July 4, 2019

Dörner-Fernández-Prats

Venusik
MultiKulti Project MPSMT 011

Peter Evans/Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy

Free Radicals at DOM

Fundacja Sluchaj FSR15/2018

One brass player, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández and a trio setting unite these two discs, recorded within four days of one another, but 3,600 kilometers apart. Yet besides pinpointing the speed of 21st Century travel, the two, although comparably superlative, share more differences than similarities. In short form: Barcelona-recorded Venusik is a Free Music session, whereas Moscow-recoded Free Radicals at DOM is closer to Free Jazz. MORE

October 16, 2018

The Pitch & Splitter Orchestra

Frozen Orchestra (Splitter)
Mikroton Recordings cd 61

Performing nearly ego-less group music is an indomitable task as combos like AMM and other reductionist ensembles have found. Imagine trying to do the same for a 23-person aggregation. That’s the challenge realized on this fine CD. Played by a combination of two Berlin-based bands, the Pitch quartet and the 19-member Splitter Orchestra this exactly-one-hour piece moves in a chiaroscuro-like fashion as reeds, brass, strings and electronics intermix for a program that is both languorous and fluid. The upshot is persuasive despite an interface that makes instrumental identification only briefly possible. MORE

September 16, 2018

Bruit 4

Bruit 4
Umland Records 14

Overall, the harsh dissonance and some might say passive aggressive timbre propelling from the Bruit 4 brass group may suggest the European Union’s current political stalemates. However the organization of the ensemble and the denouement of the eight-section suite resemble the ideals that the EU was set up to achieve. Organized by Essen-based Florian Walter, who plays a so-called hybrid “Hechtyphone” here, other Bruit members are microtonal trumpeter Axel Dörner from Berlin, Italian trumpeter Flavio Zanuttini and Norwegian-born, Copenhagen resident Torben Snekkestad who plays a self-invented reed trumpet. MORE

April 2, 2018

Die Enttäuschung

Lavaman
Intakt CD 289

Unfortunately the followers of so-called Classic Jazz are so committed to a limited repertoire repeatedly played in only one manner by recognized song rercreators that they wouldn’t recognize that the ebullient Die Enttäuschung could be ingeniously concocting a new variation of Trad Jazz. Especially with the addition of trombonist Christof Thewes, who can snarl plunger tones with the best, the quintet would be an asset at any Jazz Party. That will never happen of course, precisely because of the quintet`s other capability: its members are constantly seeking new forms of expression. MORE

May 18, 2017

Bertrand Denzler/Antonin Gerbal/Axel Dörner

Le Ring
Confront CCS 65

More a scrutiny of sound then storytelling, the unbroken 41-minute improvisation that is Le Ring is like inspiring but untitled non-figurative visual art. Not only can you observe the skill that went into applying the thickening ridges of paint and line organization in a vital fashion, but the non-specific inscription allows you to ascribe an array of meanings to the art. Elsewhere Berlin-based trumpeter Axel Dörner plus tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and percussionist Antonin Gerbal, both of Paris, have confirmed that they can easily play straight-ahead Jazz. But this session has its origin in the timbral exploration and transformative parameters related to solo investigations and other group projects such as Denzler’s involvement in the Hubbub quintet and Dörner’s membership in the Contests of Pleasure trio. MORE

August 11, 2016

Dörner, Hautzinger, Kerbaj, Hübsch

Ariha Brass Quartet
Al Maslakh 18

By Ken Waxman

Challenging the reductionist idea that music from the non-western world only fits in the so-called ethnic category are Beirut’s committed free improvisers. Like outsiders whose grasp of a language’s grammar sometimes exceeds that of natives, within the past decade Lebanese sound explorers have proven their skill playing alongside advanced improvisers from elsewhere, at the city’s annual free music Irtijal Festival, or in ad hoc settings in Lebanon or Europe. This CD confirms this combination as Beirut-based trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj’s ideas are integrated within the Ariha Brass Quartet (ABQ) which also includes Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger as well as Germans, trumpeter Axel Dörner and tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch. MORE

June 1, 2016

Festival Report

Doek ABC
By Ken Waxman

With many parts of the Netherlands reclaimed from the sea over the centuries, the Dutch have long been adroit recycling, reusing and repurposing. So it’s no surprise that except for the soft-seated Bimhuis, with its magnificent waterfront view, most venues for this year’s Doek ABC Improvisation Festival in Amsterdam, April 29 to May 4, had initially been built as schools, warehouses and even a dungeon. These locations were particularly pertinent for this year’s fest which united local improvisers (A) with visitors from Berlin (B) and Chicago (C). The festival also demonstrated how different musicians repurpose the jazz and improvised traditions. MORE

August 26, 2015

Itaru Oki & Axel Dörner

Root of Bohemian
Improvising Beings IB36

Birgit Ulher/Leonel Kaplan

Stereo Trumpet

Relative Pitch Records RPR 1030

Creating unaccompanied free-form duets can be more of a challenge with trumpets than any other instrument. With no series of keys like a saxophone or even the additional timbres stretching from a trombone slide means that inspiration must be expressed through fingering and breath control. Two international brass duos – German Birgit Ulher and Argentinean Leonel Kaplan plus German Axel Dörner and Japanese, long-time French resident Itaru Oki – deal admirably with the situation. Yet each twosome untangles the puzzle in a unique fashion. MORE

May 22, 2015

Aki Takase/Alexander Von Schlippenbach

So Long, Eric
Intakt CD 239

Heliocentric Counterblast

Planetary Tunes

Enja Yellowbird ENJ-9726

Duduvudu

The Gospel According to Dudu Pukwana

Edgetone EDT 4144

When it comes to serious improvised music, tribute discs are as likely to be a bane as a boon. That’s because the artist involved faces a double challenge. Firstly can the player salute the honoree in such a way that the music will amplify rather than diminish that person’s reputation? Plus if that’s done properly will the resulting product be imaginative rather than an unoriginal run though of familiar tunes? Luckily the sessions here stay away from the overly familiar Miles-Louis-Duke-Trane team to honor less frequently venerated innovators. But while each session is enjoyable and while there are pleasurable and cultivated sounds on tap, none attains the level of creative freshness that the prototypes did. MORE

December 26, 2014

Dörner/Willers/Kaufmann

.AAA Live
Creative Sources CS 255 CD

Charig/Fischer/Wolf

Free Music on a Summer Evening

Sporeprint 1312-01

2° étage

Grey Matter

NoBusiness Records NBCD 63

Based upon the interaction of a brass instrument with two other – ostensibly rhythm section – instruments, these CDs validate the almost infinite diversity of modern improvisation. Individually changing the line-up by substituting a single instrument creates distinctive programs though. Crucially as well while each session is characterized by restraint – even though two feature a drummer – careful listening reveals noticeable distinctions. Grey Matter is the most Jazz-oriented of the three, while .AAA Live is the most consciously experimental. Free Music on a Summer Evening slots comfortably between the two. MORE

December 3, 2013

Axel Dörner & Mark Sanders

Stonecipher
Fataka 5

Mikrokolektyw

Absent Minded

Delmark DE 5003

Tomasz Dabrowski/Tyshawn Sorey Duo

Steps

ForTune 0005

By Ken Waxman

Conflicting methodologies are at work on these distinctive trumpet-drums sessions. By limiting interaction to textures from only two instruments, improvisations are stripped down to be as pure as possible. Other impulses taint this purity though, when electronics from both players are added on Absent Minded and from Axel Dörner’s trumpet on Stonecipher. Steps however is completely acoustic, and the disk is better for it. MORE

November 8, 2013

Festival Report

Crak Festival Paris
By Ken Waxman

Completed in the mid-16th Century in the flamboyant gothic style, the mammoth and solid Eglise St-Merry characterizes the Beauborg area on the right bank of Paris as much as the nearby ornate 19th century Hôtel de Ville and the brutalist, high-tech architecture of 1977’s Centre Georges Pompidou. During the second annual Crak Festival September 26-29 however, St-Merry’s musty arches, pulpits and 30-foot-high ceilings served as an unexpected backdrop for sounds from the 20th and 21st centuries and beyond. MORE

August 1, 2013

Die Enttäuschung

Vier Halbe
Intakt CD 211

Sixty years after the fact who would have guessed that the most stimulating variant of the legendary Gerry Mulligan piano-less quartet would appear in POMO form from Berlin’s Die Enttäuschung?

The group members – trumpeter Axel Dörner, reedist Rudi Mahall, bassist Jan Roder and drummer Uli Jennessen – has in the past become known for interpretations of Hard Bop compositions, most notably Thelonious Monk’s, as well as crisply performing their own tunes. Yet on this program of 21 [!] pieces composed individually by all band members, Mahall’s reliance on the baritone saxophone as well as his usual bass clarinet puts the group firmly in Mulligan quartet territory. Adding to the resemblance is that Dörner, whose swallowed and dissident tones often reach the very edge of avant-gardism, mostly keeps his solos in a range so comfortable he could have worked in any West Coast band circa 1955. The mostly brief compositions –only five come anywhere near the five minute mark – evolve with maximum swing as well, with Jennessen proving himself incredibly apt writing in that Cool Jazz style. MORE

May 23, 2013

Sven-Åke Johansson/Andrea Neumann/Axel Dörner

Groẞe Gartenbausstellung
Olof Bright OBCD 34

Watt

Alter Egos

Creative Sources CS 226 CD

Designing an engrossing improvisational program depend as much on circumstances as the instruments used. These trios prove this by melding the relatively standard tonal colors of brass, drums and strings. Overall while the trio on Alter Egos may be a bit more exuberant, and the one on Groẞe Gartenbausstellung more restrained, the equally impressive results confirm the universality of advanced music, as does the fact that five different countries are represented on the CDs. MORE

March 5, 2013

Ig Henneman Sextet

Live at the Ironworks Vancouver
Wig 21

Charlotte Hug & Frédéric Blondy

Bouquet

Emanem 5026

By Ken Waxman

Q: What’s the difference between a dog and a viola? A: The dog knows when to stop scratching. Of all the stringed instruments extant, it’s the viola which gets the least respect, with this joke only one of hundreds about it.

Yet because of its unique intonation the viola has become a favored method of expression for inventive improvisers like the two on these discs. Certainly Zürich’s Charlotte Hug and Amsterdam’s Ig Henneman confirm the versatility of their chosen instrument. MORE

February 7, 2013

Label Spotlight

Umlaut
By Ken Waxman

For Swedes the umlaut or two dots over common vowels in Swedish transforms one sound into another. When Swedish-born, Berlin-based bassist Joel Grip explained that to others while studying in Baltimore, the transformative concept appealed to him so much that when he founded a record label he decided to adopt Umlaut as its name. Since 2004, Umlaut, now a musical collective with members in Sweden, Germany and France, has released 25 productions. The discs feature a cross section of young improvisers, including Grip, trumpeters Axel Dörner and Niklas Barnö, saxophonist Pierre-Antoine Badaroux and pianist Alexander Zethson plus more established musicians such as drummer Sven-Åke Johansson. “The research and questioning of improvisation and composition play an important role for Umlaut. Our improvisations become composed memory when heard, and our compositions are stated improvised memories,” says Grip. MORE

August 27, 2012

Mika Vainio/Kevin Drumm/Axel Dörner/Lucio Capece

Venexia
PAN 28

Charles/Gross/Hautzinger/Marchetti

TSSTT!

Monotype Records Mono048

Assimilating the austere, atonal and blurred timbres of drone-oriented electronics with similar sombre interface produced acoustically, is one of the ongoing challenges of one branch of experimental music. Consider these intriguing, similarly constituted, sessions. Each explores the limits of electro-acoustic improvisations with adjacent textures imported from noise and/or industrial sounds. But each is also succinct and balanced enough so that this intricate interfacing doesn`t wear out its welcome with excess. MORE

June 15, 2012

Peeping Tom

Boperation
Umlaut Records umfr-002

Viktor Tóth

Popping Bopping

Budapest Music Center Records BMC CD 191

Decoding Jazz’s history so that it’s relevant for contemporary musicians has become one of the concerns of this century. While it’s obvious that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it – in an inferior fashion – conversely those who know only history can’t contribute to the music’s evolution.

With the same quartet instrumentation, saxophonist Viktor Tóth’s combo and the Peeping Tom group have come up with CDs that attempt to fashion Bop-influenced sounds according to their own concepts. Both bands are Pan-European, which in itself says something about dealing with a music that was almost 100% American-dominated until the end of the 20th century. However each is recalculating the tradition according to its own ideas. Boperation takes 10 Bop and Hard Bop standards and subtly reconfigures them with post-modern interpretations. Popping Bopping is another matter. While the six tunes here are all originals by Budapest-based alto saxophonist Tóth, most of the time the combo voicing and arrangements sound almost identical to that of post-Bop alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry circa 1960-1962. MORE

June 10, 2012

Ig Henneman Sextet

Cut a Caper
Wig 19

Negotiating the boundary between noted and improvised music, Europe and Canada is the all-star sextet of Dutch violist Ig Henneman which is in concert at the Music Gallery June 24. The 10 limpid pieces by Henneman which make up this disc are interpreted by a drum-less ensemble whose particularized arrangements and advanced technical requirements suggest contemporary New music. But when Berlin-based trumpeter Axel Dörner gargles altissimo air through his horn or when the violist lets loose with airborne spicccato snatches, the formalism is left aside. As well, there may be canon-like voicing on Moot, but Charles Mingus-like echoes appear on Toe and Heel, while the title tune adds marching band hops to other sound tropes. MORE

June 5, 2012

Festival Report:

dOek's 10th Anniversary
By Ken Waxman

Unexpectedly but appropriately, Sean Bergin tenor saxophonist and tour-guide-for-the-day, added an extra stop to an afternoon bus tour of selected jazz clubs during Amsterdam’s 10th anniversary dOeK festival April 21-22. In front of a construction site on a narrow street beside a canal, which from 1974-2005 been home to the Bimhuis, the South African-born Bergin passed out noise-makers and lead the participants in a brief fanfare celebrating ground zero for advanced Dutch sounds,

The salute was doubly significant. Not only was that location progenitor of the spacious, soft-seated, harbor-front location of the new Bimhuis in which the two-day festival took place, but long-time Amsterdam resident Bergin, who during the bus journey entertained with quirky songs and stories about the city’s musical history while playing saxophone, penny-whistle and ukulele, is a representative of the foreign improvisers who have contributed to the city’s musical gestalt over the years. MORE

March 6, 2012

Festival Report:

“Might I Suggest”
By Ken Waxman

With characteristic British understatement, saxophonist Evan Parker’s curated “Might I Suggest” (MIS) festival celebrated its second birthday in late January uniting German and British improvisers at the second-floor Vortex club, located in London’s moderately gentrified Dalston district. Quality of the performances during the six evenings testified not only to the worth of Parker’s recommendations but also to their scope. With funding from the Goethe Institute, the performances ranged from Kurt Weill songs performed by vocalist Norma Winstone’s trio to the electronic processing utilized by bassist Adam Linson’s Systems Quartet; and from the intense expression of guitarist John Russell’s expanded British-German unit to the balanced arrangements Bavarian-born, London resident Hans Koller crafted for his Fun House Living (FHL) nonet. MORE

November 20, 2011

Echtzeitmusik

Selbstbestimmung einer Szene/Self-defining a scene (Berlin 1995–2010)
Burkhard Beins, Christian Kesten, Gisela Nauck and Andrea Neumann (editors)
Wolke Books

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. MORE

October 20, 2011

Adam Linson Systems Quartet

Figures and Grounds
psi 11.05

Moving simultaneously forwards and sideways, bassist Adam Linson extends his electro-acoustic experiments here with real-time interactive computer music systems which amplify the timbres of a live quartet of improvisers. Besides the sounds generated by the Los Angles-born, London-based bassist are those emanating from three inimitable stylists, two from Berlin: Axel Dörner on trumpet and electronics and Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet; plus veteran British percussionist Paul Lytton, who has long lived in Aachen, Germany. The results are as captivating as they are original. MORE

May 11, 2011

Axel Dörner/Diego Chamy

Super Axel Dörner
Absinth Records 018

Isaiah Ceccarelli

Bréviare d'epuisements

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 199 CD

Wolter Wierbos

Deining

Dolfijn Records DolFinj 02

Gord Grdina Trio

Barrel Fire

Drip Audio DA00651

Something in the Air:

Dutch Improvisers and Friends in Toronto

By Ken Waxman

Accommodating and adaptable improvising musicians from the Netherlands are as open to out-of-country influences as working with players from different countries in Holland or abroad. Confident in their own skills, they see non-local musicians’ participation as additions to their music, not competition. These beliefs characterize two ostensibly Dutch ensembles in concert in Toronto this month: The Ex with Brass Unbound is presented by the Music Gallery at Lee’s Palace on May 18; while Ig Henneman’s Kindred Spirits Sextet at Gallery 345 May 19. Violist Henneman’s combo includes two Canadians, pianist Marilyn Lerner and clarinettist Lori Freedman plus German trumpeter Axel Dörner. Meanwhile the Brass Unbound, working with the guitar-heavy, Dutch anarchistic punk-jazzers The Ex, is made up of Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, American saxophonist Ken Vandermark and Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos. A careful listen to some of these players own CDs demonstrates the sort of adaptability that characterizes these Dutch-centred combos in general. MORE

April 3, 2011

G9 Gipfel

Berlin
Jazzwerkstatt JW 080

Taking advantage of the multiplicity of colors, as well as the flexibility available from nine balanced instruments, trombonist Gerhard Gschlössl demonstrates his skills as a composer and arranger with this significant CD. Providing nourishment from all orchestral food groups – brass, reeds and strings – the layered performances are lively and cohesive as well as offering ample solo space.

Besides the Stuttgart-born, Berlin based Gschlössl – who self-effacingly avoids the making the 10 compositions mere trombone showcases – the rest of the band is composed of many of the German capital’s most accomplished players who often work together in interlocking ensembles. For instance bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, bassist Johannes Fink and drummer Christian Lillinger are members of Vierergupper Gschlössl with the trombonist. Mahall, trumpeter Axel Dörner and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach make up Monk’s Casino. Guitarist John Schröder is in Der Rote Bereich with Mahall, while alto saxophonist Wanja Slavin’s band features Lillinger. Tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius leads his own bands and is part of Amsterdam’s ICP Orchestra. MORE

January 28, 2011

Angharad Davies/Axel Dörner

A.D.
Another Timbre at31

Benjamin Duboc/Itaru Oki

Nobusiko

Improvising Beings ib01

Creating novel techniques for instruments as familiar as the trumpet, the double bass and the violin is difficult enough. However these duo CDs are doubly absorbing, since the participants have created individual inventions for one brass and one chordaphone while stretching outwards their expected timbres.

In a context such as this, Nobusiko is actually the more traditional of the discs. That’s because French bassist Benjamin Duboc habitually uses the stolid percussive qualities of his four strings to maintain a chromatic bottom. Meanwhile Japanese-born Itaru Oki, who has long made his home in France, bounces, splutters and spits out as many textures as can be imagined from his trumpet, flugelhorn, wood flute and plastic tubing. Duboc, one of the busiest bassists in Paris, may also be able to foretell and calculate many of Oki’s rubato moves, since both are members of NUTS, the excellent French Free Jazz quintet. MORE

August 7, 2010

Axel Dörner & Erhard Hirt

Black Box
Acheulian Handaxe aha 0803 CD

Jean-Luc Cappozzo/Erwan Keravec

Air Brut

Innacor INNA 1001

Stretching the timbral capacities of the trumpet has been a preoccupation of so many inventive brass players during the last decade that the textures associated with brass have been redefined. Redefined too have been the appropriate partners for free-form improvisations as is proven on these two notable CDs.

Someone who divides his recent career between playing high-quality Free Jazz with ensembles like The Electrics and Die Enttäuschung to individual tone exploration on his own or with players like saxophonist John Butcher or tubaist Robin Hayward, Berlin’s Axel Dörner faces off with Münster-based guitarist Erhard Hirt on Black Box. Hirt has worked with the Wuppertaler Improvisations Orchester and individuals such as drummer Paul Lovens. MORE

July 23, 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. MORE

February 21, 2010

Dörner/Schröder/Thomas/Steidle

Das Treffen
Jazzwerkstatt JW 059

Aus

Live in Nickelsdorf

Jazzwerkstatt JW 051

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. MORE

January 21, 2010

Mahall/Dörner/Roder/Jennessen

Die Enttäuschung5
Intakt CD166

An amorphous designation at best, FreeBop is often used to characterize musicians who work in a freer idiom but haven’t completely abandoned many of the strictures of contemporary modern jazz. Berlin-based Die Enttäuschung – the Disappointment – does this and much more. As its members demonstrate on this CD, the quartet is versatile enough to meld the explorations of Free Music, the dense rhythms of Hard Bop and impressive tonal blends reminiscent of West Coast Jazz. Free Cool anyone? MORE

December 2, 2009

Phosphor

Phosphor II
Potlatch PT-P109

Resolutely non-hierarchal as isolated basic tones abut cramped industrial grit, the unique textures spun out by Phosphor nearly hypnotize, but leave plenty of breathing room to shake up the six tracks with unanticipated timbral pirouettes.

Each of band’s seven Berlin-based members is an acknowledged originator striving for unexpected sounds from his or her chosen instrument. Trumpeter Axel Dörner has done so in the company of others such as reedist John Butcher; tubaist Robin Hayward has evolved a personal method of twisting and muting valves; working alone or in tandem with partners such as clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski or Hayward, Annette Krebs and Michael Renkel mostly recalibrate expected guitar sounds; Andrea Neumann’s mastery lies in exploiting prepared piano impulses; Burkhard Beins creates unusual percussion patterns solo or in groups with Neumann, Renkel and others; and Ignaz Schick’s turntable evolutions attain resonance which allows him to regularly collaborate with mystic composer Charlemagne Palestine. Most importantly each of the players fastens onto the transformative abilities of computers and electronics as expertly as18th Century dualists knew the capabilities of rapiers. MORE

November 16, 2009

Berlin’s European Jazz Jamboree Offers a Unique Take on American-based Jazz

By Ken Waxman

Like one of those novels of speculative fiction that posit a scenario in which the South wins the American Civil War; or perhaps like a variant of Superman Comic’s Bizzaro planet where everything is the reverse of earth, 2009’s European Jazz Jamboree (EEJ) offered an alternate view of jazz history. Here the music was essentially in the tradition, but, in the main, interpreted by Europeans rather than Americans.

This led to some spectacular performances taking place during the series of concerts in selected Berlin venues during mid-September. But as Superman found when he visited the Bizarro world, altered history can sometimes be disconcerting. Similarly some of the EJJ combinations failed to live up to their expected promise(s). In a further Bizarro-like irony, some of the fest’s best sounds came from aggregations whose music had very little to do with the EJJ’s stated theme. MORE

August 8, 2009

Creatively Sourcing New International Music

For MusicWorks Issue #104
By Ken Waxman

What began in 2001 as a recording outlet for a group of Lisbon improvisers has in less than a decade grown to a CD catalogue of more than 170 releases with an emphasis on fresh, innovative sounds. Under the direction of violist Ernesto Rodrigues, every month or so Creative Sources (CS) Recordings releases two or three CDs from committed international musicians. “Creative Sources is musician-run for musicians,” declares Rodrigues. “We’re not here for the money, but for the art. MORE

June 1, 2009

Jan Roder

Double Bass
Jazzwerkstatt JW 037

Aki Takase & The Good Boys

Live at Willisau Jazz Festival

Jazz Werkstatt JW 049

Alexander Von Schlippenbach

Friulian Sketches

psi 08.07

TOOT

Two

Another Timbre At14

Extended Play: Alexander Von Schlippenbach and his band mates

By Ken Waxman

One European jazz pacesetter since the late 1960s, German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s groups showcase different aspects of his broad interests. Together for over 35 years, his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens features improvisers attuned to each other’s thinking. Predating that, The Globe Unity Orchestra herds outstanding Continental soloists into cooperative big band arrangements. His Monk’s Casino quintet – filled out by German players about 25 years younger than Schlippenbach, 71 – offers a unique take on Thelonious Monk’s oeuvre. Its members also score on individual projects, like these CDs. MORE

June 1, 2009

Alexander Von Schlippenbach

Friulian Sketches
psi 08.07

TOOT

Two

Another Timbre At14

Jan Roder

Double Bass

Jazzwerkstatt JW 037

Aki Takase & The Good Boys

Live at Willisau Jazz Festival

Jazz Werkstatt JW 049

Extended Play: Alexander Von Schlippenbach and his band mates

By Ken Waxman

One European jazz pacesetter since the late 1960s, German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s groups showcase different aspects of his broad interests. Together for over 35 years, his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens features improvisers attuned to each other’s thinking. Predating that, The Globe Unity Orchestra herds outstanding Continental soloists into cooperative big band arrangements. His Monk’s Casino quintet – filled out by German players about 25 years younger than Schlippenbach, 71 – offers a unique take on Thelonious Monk’s oeuvre. Its members also score on individual projects, like these CDs. MORE

June 1, 2009

TOOT

Two
Another Timbre At14

Jan Roder

Double Bass

Jazzwerkstatt JW 037

Aki Takase & The Good Boys

Live at Willisau Jazz Festival

Jazz Werkstatt JW 049

Alexander Von Schlippenbach

Friulian Sketches

psi 08.07

Extended Play: Alexander Von Schlippenbach and his band mates

By Ken Waxman

One European jazz pacesetter since the late 1960s, German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s groups showcase different aspects of his broad interests. Together for over 35 years, his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens features improvisers attuned to each other’s thinking. Predating that, The Globe Unity Orchestra herds outstanding Continental soloists into cooperative big band arrangements. His Monk’s Casino quintet – filled out by German players about 25 years younger than Schlippenbach, 71 – offers a unique take on Thelonious Monk’s oeuvre. Its members also score on individual projects, like these CDs. MORE

June 1, 2009

Aki Takase & The Good Boys

Live at Willisau Jazz Festival
Jazz Werkstatt JW 049

Alexander Von Schlippenbach

Friulian Sketches

psi 08.07

TOOT

Two

Another Timbre At14

Jan Roder

Double Bass

Jazzwerkstatt JW 037

Extended Play: Alexander Von Schlippenbach and his band mates

By Ken Waxman

One European jazz pacesetter since the late 1960s, German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s groups showcase different aspects of his broad interests. Together for over 35 years, his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens features improvisers attuned to each other’s thinking. Predating that, The Globe Unity Orchestra herds outstanding Continental soloists into cooperative big band arrangements. His Monk’s Casino quintet – filled out by German players about 25 years younger than Schlippenbach, 71 – offers a unique take on Thelonious Monk’s oeuvre. Its members also score on individual projects, like these CDs. MORE

March 28, 2009

Jazz Brugge

Brugge, Belgium
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 MORE

November 25, 2008

Alexander Von Schlippenbach-Globe Unity Orchestra

Globe Unity - 40 Years
Intakt CD 133

Schlippenbach Trio

Gold Is Where You Find It

Intakt CD 143

More than 70 years old, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is one more proof of Steve Lacy’s adage that “free jazz keeps you young”. A professional musician since 1962, Berlin-based Schlippenbach has maintained his level of creativity in various contexts, most prominently in the trans-European Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) and his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens. MORE

July 2, 2008

Axel Dörner-Diego Chamy

What Matters to Ali
C3R Records C3R 012

When is percussion like brass? When both are used as sound sources rather than designated instruments. That’s what German trumpeter Axel Dörner and Argentinean percussionist Diego Chamy do on this intriguing, nearly 46-minute single improvisation recorded in their shared residence of Berlin.

Segmented by silences and passages that work up to fortissimo, the CD was took place at Dörner’s house, and at points during the minimalist piece instrumental tones are underlined by voices mumbling in Spanish. For the first part of the meeting the drummer, who is also involved with sound poetry and video projects, limits himself to singular strikes on a bell. Meanwhile the trumpeter, who specializes in non-traditional brass timbres, moves from buzzing bee-like tremolos to unadorned air blown through his lead pipe to a crescendo of discordant blats and puffs. MORE

April 1, 2008

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest
Drip Audio DA 00272

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Kartet

The Bay Window
Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

James Carney Group

Green-Wood
Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg
Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup
Red Toucan RT 9331

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

December 9, 2007

Axel Dörner

Sind
Absinth Records aR 010

Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley

The Duchess of Oysterville

Creative Sources CS 087 CD

Scott Tinkler

Backwards

Extreme Records XCD-058

Reinterpretation of instruments’ roles and timbres arises for different musicians in different places at different times. Additionally, not every player reconfigures his or her instrument and playing style in the same way. These factors have to be weighed in order to appreciate these solo trumpet (and etc.) sessions from three different continents. MORE

December 9, 2007

Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley

The Duchess of Oysterville
Creative Sources CS 087 CD

Axel Dörner

Sind

Absinth Records aR 010

Scott Tinkler

Backwards

Extreme Records XCD-058

Reinterpretation of instruments’ roles and timbres arises for different musicians in different places at different times. Additionally, not every player reconfigures his or her instrument and playing style in the same way. These factors have to be weighed in order to appreciate these solo trumpet (and etc.) sessions from three different continents. MORE

December 9, 2007

Scott Tinkler

Backwards
Extreme Records XCD-058

Axel Dörner

Sind

Absinth Records aR 010

Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley

The Duchess of Oysterville

Creative Sources CS 087 CD

Reinterpretation of instruments’ roles and timbres arises for different musicians in different places at different times. Additionally, not every player reconfigures his or her instrument and playing style in the same way. These factors have to be weighed in order to appreciate these solo trumpet (and etc.) sessions from three different continents. MORE

December 4, 2007

Dörner-Mahall-Roder-Jennessen

Die Enttäuschung
Intakt CD 125

Known for its repertoire performance of Thelonious Monk tunes, the Berlin-based Die Enttäuschung quartet showcases its own compositions on this notable CD. Along the way the band proves that rhythmic excitement can be mated with serpentine melodies and unusual improvisational forays.

Trumpeter Axel Dörner, whose style usually probes the outer limits of raspy noise and microtonal vibrations, here surprisingly adopts a muted, tongue-fluttering output that erects polytonal pointillism along with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall. For his part, the reedist matches low-pitched renal snorts or squeaking altissimo smears with Dörner’s output in such a way Booker Little. Should one horn player explode into pitch-sliding expansions in his instrument’s highest range, then the other decorates that foray with a soothing obbligato, keeping the end product as grounded as any Monk line. MORE

November 17, 2006

Contest of Pleasures

The Albi Days
Potlatch P205

Just as members of the European Union are gradually adopting shared principals, so the members of Contest of Pleasures (COP) – from different countries –subordinate individual techniques to a group style. Comfortable utilizing the acoustics of a space, multiple mics and post-performance editing to shape and blend their reductionist improvisations, the three have produce a memorable aural soundscape here.

A step forward from COP’s first CD in 2000, The Albi Days illuminates how French clarinetist Xavier Charles, German trumpeter Axel Dörner and tenor and British soprano saxophonist John Butcher use wave form modulations and extended techniques as a matter of course. Encompassing pressured staccato timbres plus elongated rumbles and slurs, the five layered, all-acoustic improvisations take on quasi-electronic timbres, especially when hissing flutters and video-game-like fusillade is heard. Very occasionally the three unite for triple counterpoint, three part harmony or startlingly – in Dörner’s or Butcher’s case – let loose with identifiable brassy grace notes or reedy tongue slaps. MORE

May 29, 2006

DÖRNER/KAPLAN/CHAMY

Absence
Creative Sources CS034CD

Know musically as the setting for the pop-musical “Evita” plus jazz-wise as the home of Hollywood soundtrack composer Lalo Schifrin and tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, Argentina is pretty much off the improv music map.

Over the years the political climate hasn’t been that hospitable to non-commercial improvisers either, with experimental players such as architect and woodwind player Guillermo Gregorio better known since his move to Chicago than during his many years in his home town of Buenos Aires. MORE

March 13, 2006

Jim Denley

A Walk in the Palm Forest with My Saxophone
Split Records

Jim Denley/Axel Dörner
Distinction
Split Records

Jim Denley/Clayton Thomas
Creoles
Split Records

Robin Fox/Clayton Thomas
Substation
Room40

By Ken Waxman
March 13, 2006

Not yet 50 years old, saxophonist/flautist Jim Denley is in many ways the Grand Old Man of Australian improv – at least as far as many non-Antipodeans are concerned.

Born in the country town of Bulli in New South Wales and raised in Wollongong, Denley was touring Australia with American and European improvisers in his twenties. He studied flute in Tokyo in the late 1980s, and shortly afterwards relocated to Europe for a period. During that interregnum he became a member of a few groups, most notably pianist Chris Burn’s Ensemble that also included violinist Stevie Wishart and saxophonist John Butcher among others; and Lines, which was usually filled out with German improvisers such as trumpeter Axel Dörner and drummer Martin Blume. MORE

December 5, 2005

Minton/Van Hove/Mattos/Blume

Axon
FMR

Activity Centre/Phil Minton
Activity Centre & Phil Minton
Absinth Records

Toot
One
SOFA

By Ken Waxman
December 5, 2005

He may not be as popular among pop-jazz fans as Jamie Cullum, Harry Connick or Kurt Elling, but no other male vocalist has recorded more experimental improv work over the past quarter century, then London’s Phil Minton, who turned 65 earlier this month.

At his age you’d expect the British vocalist to be a crooner in Chet Baker-Frank Sinatra mould or a rocker like his near contemporaries Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart. Instead the Torquay-born Minton, who like Baker started as a trumpet player, found his voice in Dadesque expostulations with fellow vocalists like Maggie Nicols and Julie Tippetts as well as agitprop in left-wing bandleader Mike Westbrook’s larger projects. MORE

April 11, 2005

AXEL DÖRNER/ROBIN HAYWARD

Axel Dörner & Robin Hayward
Absinte Records

RUTH BARBERÁN
Capcidad de pérdida
Creative Sources

MICHAEL VOGT
Argonautika
Recommended Records

By Ken Waxman
April 11, 2005

Breath control, valve blocking and twisting plus sound, extensions using acoustical or electrical timbres distinguish these CDs, part of the move by brass players to attain the creative freedom improvisational reedists have enjoyed for many years. Limited by the number of valves extant on the trumpet and the tuba, compared to the keys of a saxophone or clarinet that is, ingenious stratagems are used to extend and amplify the instruments’ natural range and pitches. MORE

December 6, 2004

UNSK

Tidszon
Creative Sources

Axel Dörner/Greg Kelley/Andrea Neumann/Bhob Rainey
Thanks, Cash
Sedimental

By Ken Waxman
December 6, 2004

Listening to Thanks, Cash and Tidszon together is a bit like playing those Metronome All-Stars sessions from the late 1940s, when Miles Davis and Fats Navarro sat next to one another in the trumpet section one year, and when Dizzy Gillespie was the sole trumpeter the next.

That’s because with Axel Dörner and Greg Kelley on the first CD and Birgit Ulher on the later you can hear representations of the sort of brass evolution Davis, Navarro and Gillespie were attempting in their time. Plus, to confirm the all-star sobriquet a little further, Kelley and Axel Dörner are joined by soprano saxophonist Bhob Rainey in that quartet, and Ulher by multi-reedman Martin Küchen in UNSK. MORE

August 16, 2004

SABINE ERCKLENTZ/ANDREA NEUMANN

Oberflächebspannung
Charhizma 024

TONY BUCK/AXEL DÖRNER
Durch Und Durch
TES/Vitamin TES CD0103

Well it had to happen eventually and it finally has: the emergence of trumpeters taking Berlin brassman Axel Dörner’s microtonal sound sculpture as a base on which to build their own improvisations.

Expanding in the 1990s from a Free Jazz base Dörner has gradually concentrated his efforts on an idiosyncratic melange of minimal techniques that neatly translate electro-acoustic elements without electronic instruments. For the past little while, he and Boston trumpeter Greg Kelley operated in similar spheres, mostly apart, but sometimes in the same group, as the Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis of the style. Now, as OBERFLÄCHEBSPANNUNG demonstrates, Berlin-based Sabine Ercklentz is another brass player to adopt the concept. MORE

June 7, 2004

AMBARCHI/MÜLLER/SAMARTZIS

strange love
FOR4EARS CD 1448

NO FURNITURE
No Furniture
Creative Sources CS 009 CD

For all intents and purposes, it appears as if the interaction between electronics and acoustic instruments has become the paramount preoccupation of improvising musicians in Northern Europe and is rapidly spreading.

But even with bandstands filled with computers, samplers, ipods and minidisks, the results don’t necessarily sound identical as is shown by the sounds on these two CDs. They do prove that this electro-acoustic engrossment is universal, however. MORE

May 10, 2004

THE BSC

Good
GROB 543

MONTEIRO/BARBERAN/FAGES/OKURA/EZAKI/UNAMI
atami
Hibari Music hibari-03

Now that microtonal improv intermingled with electronics has gained some sort of acceptance, the new challenge is to extend this sort of usually solo and duo experimentation to larger formations.

Both the six players on ATAMI and the 10 (!) involved on GOOD work out strategies to finesse this challenge. Each tries something different, but all depend on the listener being prepared to accept silences, static and split-second smears as proper sound derivations. MORE

April 9, 2004

JOSH ABRAMS

Cipher
Delmark DG-546

PAT O’KEEFE/JASON STANYEK/SCOTT WALTON/GLEN WHITEHEAD
Tunnel
Circumvention 038

Putting together a drummer-less combo has evolved past novelty to assertion. But the underlying sonic concept and with whom you choose to play, makes an important difference in how your music is perceived. These two quartet session demonstrate that.

Chicago bassist Josh Abrams’ debut disc scores because he had the foresight to recruit a band made up of players of vastly different experience to present a combination of his own and group compositions in 2002. Unfortunately, TUNNEL doesn’t fare as well. It does have cohesion, since all four participants were graduate students at the University of California San Diego School of Music when it was recorded in 1999. Probably for the same reason though, parts of the CD smack of over familiarity, others of academic ostentation. One result is that its seven compositions seem to take up more listening time than CIPHER’s 10 tracks, even though the second disc is actually about four minutes longer. MORE

February 16, 2004

NO SPAGHETTI EDITION

Real time satellite data
SOFA 513

CHRIS BURN’S ENSEMBLE
Ensemble at Musica Genera 2002
Musica General MG 006

Overcoming the challenge of fomenting non-idiomatic improvisations in the gray area between composition and improvisation has been a preoccupation of inclusive European musicians for the past few decades. Making that concept work in the field between electronic and handmade sounds preoccupied them in the 1990s. In the 21st Century, as these two consummate CDs demonstrate, the most accomplished instrumentalists are able to wrap all these tendencies into a program that can be performed by larger bands -- six and eight musicians are featured in the sessions here. MORE

June 9, 2003

AXEL DÖRNER/FRED LONBERG-HOLM

Object 1
Locust Music L 23

Dadaist in conception and execution, OBJECT 1 is the first of a series of collaborations that asks improvising musicians to create a so-called soundtrack for static objects. In this case the Duchampian objects to be aurally pictured are a bowling ball [!], a chest x-ray[!!], and a brillo pad [!!!].

Propitiously enough, the inceptive experimenters are German trumpeter Axel Dörner and Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who both have plenty of experience negotiating the cracks between noise, music and silence. While the end results are unique, they’re best sampled in small doses, perhaps one track at a time. Plus, left unanswered, if all the music isn’t designed as a collage of images, is which inanimate object is described on each of the five unlabeled tracks. MORE

March 17, 2003

VANDERMARK/STRID/SANDELL/STACKENÄS/NORDESON

Two Days in December
Wobbly Rail 012

THE VANDERMARK 5 Free Jazz Classics Vols. 1 & 2
Atavistic ALP1372CD

TERRITORY BAND-2 Atlas
Okka Disk 12050

Ken Vandermark seems to put out more discs in a year than some earlier jazzmen did in a career. But if he keeps turning out fine sessions like this single CD (ATLAS) and two double CDs, then there's little reason to complain.

Like other improvising musicians before him, the multi-reedman realizes that the best way to keep things fresh is to consistently change playing situations. On these five discs the circumstances range from a series of duos with four different Swedish improvisers (TWO DAYS); 13 recreations of 1960s-1970s advanced jazz standards with his regular quintet (FREE JAZZ); and a speedy romp through four original compositions as part of a 12-piece mixed American/European band (ATLAS). MORE

August 19, 2002

THE ELECTRICS

Chain of Accidents
AYLER aylCD-035

Unbelievable but true, this new CD finds Axel Dörner, a German trumpeter, who has dedicated his career to wrenching new sounds and tones from his horn, actually playing free jazz. Not only that, but his work, melded with the contributions of the other players in this cooperative quartet, also produces one of the most satisfying -- and spontaneous -- recent EuroImprov recitals.

A true Northern European super group, The Electrics, grew out of mutual admiration for one another’s playing by Dörner and Swede Sture Ericson, a tenor and baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist. Ericson, a longtime free improviser and member of the popular Swedish group Position Alpha from 1979 to 1995, withdrew from public performance for a few years after that and moved to Denmark. Meeting, and playing with the German brassman, who in recent years has solidified his reputation working with aggregation as different as the King Übü Orchestrü, Phosphor and Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band, rekindled his interest in performing. MORE

March 15, 2002

PHOSPHOR

Phosphor
Potlatch P501

Restricting itself to group music making, Phosphor (the band) has with PHOSPHOR (the CD) created a fine disc that offers up intricate abstractions and noises without focusing on individual sounds or players. It also indicates how strongly the cult of collective expression has taken hold in certain Continental circles, with Berlin as its epicentre.

Yet one should probably realize that this collection of Austrians and Germans, plus an Italian saxophonist and a British tubaist are able to create sonic magic from these micro-events because each individual has a thorough grounding in more expressive music, be it jazz, contemporary classical, electronica or noise-rock. Singly or together, the eight have worked with almost every prominent minimalist improv musician extant in Europe, North America and the Antipodes, so that ironically the band is literally an all-star aggregation. It has certainly created another crucial document that ranks with the best work of other stillness supporters, such as Chris Burns’ nonet and Wolfgang Fuch’s King Übü Orchestrü, both of which number trumpeter Axel Dörner, featured here, among their members. MORE

August 27, 2001

NO SPAGHETTI EDITION

Listen … and tell me what it was
SOFA 506

Rugged coastlines, lengthy fjords and Jan Garbarek's wimpy saxophone, more-or-less sum up what the average jazz fan knows about Norway. But while the geography hasn't changed over the past three decades, a new generation of improvisers has come to maturity. Their restless experimentation has more in common with the free form breakthroughs of other European and American musicians than the cold, ethereal meandering which have given so-called Nordic jazz the reputation it has.

Case in point is this CD, a biggish band project which links 10 committed Norwegians with British keyboardist Pat Thomas and German trumpeter Axel Dörner for eight instant compositions. Results are impressive, proving once again that these sorts of spontaneous in-the-studio creations aren't limited by geographical boundaries. MORE

June 7, 2001

JOHN BUTCHER/ALEX DÖRNER/XAVIER CHARLES

The Contest of Pleasures
Potlatch P 201

One of the difficulties in recording improvised music, as some practitioners have pointed out, is that you're making a permanent record (sic) of something that existed only in the moment. Furthermore, when the metaphoric snapshot which is a CD is released, it only reproduces the sound of the instruments, not the shape or acoustical properties of the room in which the recording takes place. What's more, a truism derived from jazz notes that music, which impresses a live audience often, loses its impressive immediacy when pressed onto that small circular disc. MORE