BILL DIXON/FRANZ KOGLMANN/STEVE LACY

Opium
between the lines btl 011/EFA 10181-2

Recorded in 1973, 1975 and 1976, these early glimpses into the mind of Austrian brassman Franz Koglmann surprisingly show him still wedded to an American free jazz conception, though his own ideas are starting to come through as well.

Or perhaps it shouldn't be that astonishing, considering that American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy is present on most tracks. Additionally, the more than 17 minute "For Franz", initially released in a limited edition of 500 with hand painted covers, features Koglmann's early influence, trumpeter Bill Dixon and two other Americans.

One of them, bassist Alan Silva is able to function like an entire string section by himself, soloing powerfully both arco and pizzicato, and easily able to make himself heard over the three horn line-up. The third, tenor saxophonist Steve Horenstein — who has since moved to Israel — offers up nervous reed asides to maintain his place between what is frequently unison work from both brassmen. Written by Dixon, the intense composition seems to function more as a summation the historical accomplishments of the Manhattan-based New Thing than a Eurocentric groundbreaker.

The earlier tunes featuring Lacy that surround "For Franz", find Koglmann in even more of an apprenticeship role. Pieces written by the flugelhornist like "Carmilla" and "Bowery 2", with their staccato walking bass lines, solo drum breaks, legato phrasing, theme and variation structure are unabashed modern swingers. If anything the front line strongly resembles the quartet with Don Cherry that Lacy recorded with in 1961.

Even those tunes featuring Gerd Geier's electronics seem to refer more to the 1950s Space Age modernistic sounds pioneered by the likes of George Russell and several West Coast composers. Not yet integrated into the structure of the compositions as they would in later European outings, the treatments call so much attention to themselves that you wonder if they escaped from Sun Ra and migrated over to this session.

Also on show is sound for sound sake, especially on Lacy's "Flaps" which contains some saxophone reed squeals, a few brass mouthpiece kisses, what sounds like a bicycle horn and a steady drum — or is it electronics — tapping at the end.

If you're looking for a new look at Koglmann — and unjustly "lost" excellent work from two American masters — head out to find OPIUM. It will only be addictive in that it will encourage you to find other sessions by these artists.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Der Vogel/Opium 2. Carmilla 3. For Franz 4. Flops 5. Bowery 1 6. Bowery 2. 7. Flaps

Personnel: Franz Koglmann (trumpet, flugelhorn); with [track 3] Bill Dixon (trumpet); Steve Horenstein (tenor saxophone); Alan Silva (bass); Walter Malli (percussion); [tracks 1,2] Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone); Josef Traindl (trombone); Cesarius Alvim Botelho (bass); Aldo Romano (drums); [tracks 4-7] Lacy; Toni Michlmayr (bass); Malli; Gerd Geier (electronics)