February 21, 2001
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You wouldn't know it by watching PBS or reading mass circulation magazines, but hard core improvised music has become an integral part of the "jazz" scene throughout the world. Particularly well established in Europe, there are so many players in the idiom, that some exist far off the average North American fan's radar screen.
Take the three exceptional improvisers who make up PUT, for instance. Veteran British percussionist Roger Turner has spent the past couple of decades in various groupings, included extensive duo work with experimental vocalists Annette Peacock and Phil Minton, and in larger bands with bassist Alan Silva, pianist Veryan Weston and synth player Thomas Lehn. German Ulrich Phillipp has been part of the all bass combo, Ensemble Sondarc, while Hamburg, Germany-based trumpeter Birgit Ulher, a visual artist and a concert organizer as well an improviser, is someone who regularly matches wits with some of Europe's finest free players.
UNLAUT's 16 instant compositions — ranging in length from 45 seconds to almost six minutes — exist in a calm, angular space of small gestures and microscopic tones. Meant to be listened to as one continuous whole, these are tunes where silence and understatement convey as much sensibility as blatant blowing, bowing or banging.
Turner is particularly masterful when it comes time to change the aural landscape of the music. He carefully ricochets cymbals on the ground, tattoos a tom tom rhythm with his hands or uses brushes to create a protracted rhythm as subtle as a soft-shoe dance. Phillips can drag his bow along his four strings to suddenly extract miniature arpeggios, or manipulate strong fingers to transform the instrument into one capable of sonorous percussive sounds. Meanwhile the stabs of sound from Ulher's horn owe as much to air manipulation, breath control and tonguing of the mouthpiece as they do to valve positions.
PUT, a name derived from the first initial of the musicians' last names, will probably never share shelf space with bands whose discs are dedicated to percussion pyrotechnics or brass ballad hucksterism. But UMLAUT should be something to put on your want list if the process of improvisation interests you as much as the result.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.ø 2.ë 3.â 4.ï 5.ü 6.õ 7.a 8.u 9.ö 10.î 11.ä 12.ê 13.å 14.ó 15.u´ 16.í
Personnel: Birgit Ulher (trumpet); Ulrich Phillipp (bass); Roger Turner (drums, percussion)