May 15, 2001
Nurnichtnur CD 1001030
Has Spike Jones become some sort of exemplar for certain players in the improvising tradition? Certainly there are times when the sounds produced by the likes of composers John Zorn and Willem Breuker or drummers Günter "Baby" Sommer and Han Bennink veer perilously close to the musical mayhem perpetuated by Jones and his anarchistic City Slickers in their 1940s heyday.
But while the products of Jones' sound factory were presented as divertissements, pure and not so simple, there's often a more serious undercurrent to present day "noise making". For a start, musicians are confirming that every sort of sound can be musical, not just those parts of the well-tempered scale. Secondly, in opposition to the dour demeanor and funereal air of most neo-con performers, they're allowing the audience to laugh good naturedly at the music being producing and to have fun listening. Laughter doesn't necessarily mean hostility or derision. Serious artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Misha Mengelberg have proven that good times and important musical statements aren't mutually exclusive impulses.
That philosophy could extend to this fascinating disc. Wild card is Czech-born multi-media artist Martin Klapper, who introduces the shades of sound created by many toys and electronics to the mix. German trumpeter Birgit Ulher, another visual artist, who has involved herself in improvisation with the likes of British drummer Roger Turner, complements Klapper's conception. Using the trumpet in a way unimagined by Armstrong, she seems to see it as a three-valve noise producer, whose smears and breaths preclude straight melodies. Holding everything together is German bassist Jürgen Morgenstern, who may have the most academic musical education of the three, but who doesn't let his diploma stand in the way of generating a whiz bang hullabaloo of his own.
Klapper, whose improv history includes recordings with Turner and saxophonist John Butcher, doesn't toy with his toys. Toots, quacks and moos from stuffed animals may enliven "MA 06", for instance, but they stitch together a sonic landscape that includes small circular brass breaths and Morgenstern seemingly exploring the insides of his bass.
Kissing sounds that can be expelled from a trumpet mouthpiece have never been more appropriately used than on "MA 08". There they join the cacophony parade that includes what sounds like glass breaking, aluminum foil being shredded, a plastic toy being squeezed, slide whistle tooting and some under-his-breath muttering from Morgenstern — and that's only in the first two minutes. Despite the ongoing diversions, the bassist's variegated arco work and powerful string pulling helps maintain interest until the track finishes.
Perhaps that's why out-and-out free improv sessions like this are so refreshing and absorbing at the same time. The best improvised music has always been about the sound of surprise. Smiling astonishment at what you're hearing makes MOMENTAUFNAHMEN an experience you won't soon forget.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.MA 01 2. MA 02 3. MA 03 4. MA 04
Personnel: Brigit Ulher, trumpet; Jürgen Morgenstern, bass, voice; Martin Klapper, toys, electronics