First Silence
Unit UTR 4122

Temperament, mindset or security usually means that Continental European improvisers don't shy from projecting a sense of humor when they play, unlike their North American counterparts.

Perhaps concerned with jazz's fragile history as so-called serious music, many musicians on this side of the Atlantic fear evoking minstrelsy or vaudeville in the ideas of joking around on stage or letting emotions be too obvious. But no one ever said modern jazz had to be all sombre and serious — as players ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Sun Ra to Albert Ayler could attest.

Europeans are freer that way. At least that's why jokesters such as Willem Breuker's Dutch bands, Italian Carlo Actis Dato and Günter "Baby" Sommer of Germany are able to play exceptional, entertaining music without a hint of subservience. Now it's time to add this Swiss free/punk-jazz trio to those ranks.

Directed by Omri Ziegele on "alto saxophone and bad lyrics" as he puts it here and whose interests include Ayler, Beat poetry and hip hop music, the three seem to operate on a level of intensity that would put many speed metal bands to shame.

Ziegele's inner beatnik comes to the fore when facing the enthused audience at this live Swiss festival date. Seemingly living in a dream of Cool Jazz and youthful rebellion, the saxman interrupts his freebop solos for a few tunes when he shouts out a variety of mostly English lyrics in a sort of faux-American accent. Selections include inventions of his own; poems by Dylan Thomas and William Blake and a snippet of Helme Heine dubbed "the most expensive 45 seconds on this CD" thanks to its music publisher.

All the while, electric bassist Jan Schlegel, who has worked with saxophonist Urs Blochlinger, and drummer Dieter Ulrich, who has also been part of the Swiss band Day & Taxi, go about their tasks efficiently. Ulrich does have to break out his cadet corps bugle ever so often, however, to supply the proper raucous counterpoint to Ziegele's vocal ramblings.

It's not all angry young man insolence, though. On "This & That Spontaneous Suite", for example, Schlegel's speedy, ever-changing rhythm keeps the beat moving at a steady pace, while Ulrich touches different parts of his kit and Ziegele slides from near Klezmer to semi-free sounds to piercing hard bop tones. Elsewhere, as on "Gex-672 4", the saxman seems to want to update Cannonball Adderley or even Johnny Hodges, tossing out blues licks over a cushion of R&B style bass thumb taps and straight, cymbal-hearty bop drumming. Furthermore the music surrounding the "Little Fly" recitation includes some Donald Ayler type bugling courtesy of the bass man.

Of course, there are times you wonder how serious Ziegele is when he takes the horn out of his mouth. How much Breuker style leg pulling is going down, especially when the repeatedly assures the audience members how much he love them and tells the hometown crowd how far the band has traveled to play the festival.

Still this combination of patter and high energy has a lot going for it, even if the saxist isn't on the level 100% of the time. Improvised music doesn't have to wear a long face all the time and there's enough musical meat on this platter of Swiss corn to create a recipe that many folks would like to try.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Spontaneous Suite No. 1: 1. Beautifulfillness 2. What if you lose 3. Chat: Don'ts 4. Shouts 5. Do not gentle into that good night 6. This & That Spontaneous Suite No. 2: 1. A Lullaby for Pussy Galore 2. Monkey's Interlude 3. Gex-672 4. Der Hase mit der Roter Nase 4. S'Our Suite 5. Fraildeeds 6. Man, Mind, Lost

Personnel: Omri Ziegele (alto saxophone, voice, bad lyrics); Jan Schlegel (electric bass); Dieter Ulrich (drums, bugle)