Venus In Transit
Between the lines btl 016/EFA 10186-2

Music for a Vienna theatre project, sound pictures of architecture, and recording with mostly American sidemen in New York. Austrian composer/trumpeter Franz Koglmann is certainly trying out some curious — for him — concepts on this CD.

Written for a play within the play, the 12 tracks that make up VENUS IN TRANSIT appear to be uncharacteristic "light" music from Koglmann. It's rife with such devices as using the solid walking bass of Peter Herbert to drive home the steady beat throughout and encouraging Mat Maneri to overdo the viola's schmaltz-spreading characteristics on tunes like "Überstörung". Meanwhile, Michael Rabinowitz's bassoon tones and the viola float through "Ist das ansteckend?" as if it was being played in some Mittel (sic) -European drawing room.

Here "Voralberger Schuhgroßhändler (Some Like It Hot)" becomes the sort of quasi-Dixieland favored in Weimar Republic salons, all woody clarinet, cocktail drums and brash open trumpet melody making.

Perhaps the play's theme, which at one point features the entire cast costumed as Marilyn Monroes gave birth to these mostly campy snippets — only one tune is more than five minutes long; most clock in at under three minutes.

Still the sidemen from the U.S. — which is, after all the home of camp as well as jazz — give the melodies some unexpected muscle. In fact, guitarist David Fiuczynski, besides his pointed plectrum comments elsewhere, manages to turn "Casta Diva" into an exercise in name that style, adopting both blusey bottleneck runs and country and western picking to the Teutonic overtones.

The score's melancholy tinge that lurks just below the surface throughout comes into view on "Kreta", the final piece, just after guitar, trumpet and percussion briefly construct another circus-like motif. Then, over a bed of reeds and brass, Chris Speed's bedroom and nighties tenor saxophone joins the viola and bassoon to slowly elaborate a bittersweet coda, which reprises the opening theme.

Closer to more expected Koglmann work, the three architectural portraits are given more space to grow. "LA, Case Study House", in particular benefits from this, with quiet guitar and drum passages suggesting the house structure, while the bassoon and viola play different melodies in counterpoint. Is it those soloists or the unidentifiable percussion sounds that get a section to itself mid-way through the composition, which are supposed to depict the insides of this dwelling?

Theatrically and architecturally, Koglmann has constructed two different architectural monuments on this disc. The first 12 tracks, especially, easily give a lie to those who find his compositions too cold and so-called European. Certainly those who are interested in viewing yet another of the Austrian's musical edifices will find much to like here.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Venus In Transit: 1. Pardon, ist da noch frei? (I Wanna Be Loved By You) 2. Überstörung 3. Eigentlich bin ich Hautartz 4. Ist das ansteckend? 5. Casta Diva 6. Danke, Frau Hofrat 7. Mit dabei sein 8. So rühr' ich um mit meinem Sabel* 9. Alois! - Wir entkommen ihm nicht 10. Voralberger Schuhgroßhändler (Some Like It Hot) 11. Toni, du Dodi 12. Kreta Wahlverwandtschaften: 13. LA, Case Study House 14. Urania, Wien 15. Maison à Bordeaux 16. Epilog

Personnel: Franz Koglmann (trumpet); Chris Speed (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon); Mat Maneri (viola); David Fiuczynski (guitar); Peter Herbert (bass); John Mettam (cocktail drums, percussion); Wolfram Igor Derntl (vocals)*