U Boot Party
Happy Few HF5

For many years labels like Pablo, Prestige, Verve and Savoy turned out job lots of LPs by gathering a group of their featured performers in the studio, turning on the tape recorders and releasing the improvised results as albums with giveaway titles like "All Night Long" or "Basie Jam #2".

The same sort of spontaneous creation exists in free music, as this loose series of improvisations from players associated with the Happy Few label demonstrates. But the parameters of an improv jam session like this involve a different mind set that what went into deciding where to play the blues or when the rhythm changes sounded best.

For a start, each of the seven participants brought in compositions. And, as with most modern sessions like this, it was then up to the individuals to transmit their interpretations of them onto disc. This short CD showcases three ensemble pieces and three more in smaller groupings.

No matter what the setting is, though, all six tunes here are above all group improvisations in contrast to the string of solos that characterized those earlier jam sessions. Moreover, considering that some of the sounds arise from sources like violins, cellos, electronics and synthesizers that were certainly rarely, if ever, seen in Rudy Van Gelder's fabled studio, the results are quite different as well.

Certainly, if nothing else, Erhard Hirt's use of electronics and Thomas Lehn's synthesizer stylings give the group the sort of otherworldly sonic textures that were reserved for the likes of Sun Ra in earlier year. Plus the concept of pulling sounds from conventional instruments themselves has changed. On this CD, for example, there's really no rhythm section function per se. Piano echoes, shimmering electronic keyboard runs and pizzicato string archery help define the perimeters.

In their showcase, "One two de Lou", for instance, inventive guitarist Hirt, steady pianist Martin Theurer and synthesizer master Lehn create the sort of buzzing and sample-lively interplay that characterizes TRINIDAD their trio disc for the same label.

Still, some of the most outstanding sounds come from two traditional instruments — Gunda Gottschalk's violin and Paul Hubweber's trombone. Part of the steadily lengthening list of Teutonic trombonists who have recorded recently, Hubweber is conspicuous not only on "Zwischen dem Zwischen" and "Dri Tell", his outings with Hirt and Theurer, but in the ensemble as well. With a tone and breath control that seems part "Jungle Band" and part Carl Jung, he's able to bring forward bubbling mineshaft deep explorations and miniscule tenor jiggles with the same facility.

Matching others' inventiveness with some of her own, on the title track and elsewhere, Gottschalk plays in a style that encompasses prestissimo finger plucks as well as concentrated arco flurries, which are often tripled with electronics and Sue Schlotte's cello.

At a little more than 35 minutes U BOOT PARTY may be too brief to properly match up against the fabled, lengthy jam sessions of the past. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. One two de Lou 2. U Boot Party 3. Zwischen dem Zwischen 4. Nachtlug 5.Dri Tell 6. Letzte Fahrt

Personnel: Paul Hubweber (trombone); Joachim Zoepf (alto saxophonist and bas clarinet); Gunda Gottschalk (violin); Sue Schlotte (cello); Erhard Hirt (guitar, electronics); Martin Theurer (piano); Thomas Lehn (analog synthesizer)