SABINE ERCKLENTZ/ANDREA NEUMANN

Oberflächebspannung
Charhizma 024

TONY BUCK/AXEL DÖRNER
Durch Und Durch
TES/Vitamin TES CD0103

Well it had to happen eventually and it finally has: the emergence of trumpeters taking Berlin brassman Axel Dörner’s microtonal sound sculpture as a base on which to build their own improvisations.

Expanding in the 1990s from a Free Jazz base Dörner has gradually concentrated his efforts on an idiosyncratic melange of minimal techniques that neatly translate electro-acoustic elements without electronic instruments. For the past little while, he and Boston trumpeter Greg Kelley operated in similar spheres, mostly apart, but sometimes in the same group, as the Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis of the style. Now, as OBERFLÄCHEBSPANNUNG demonstrates, Berlin-based Sabine Ercklentz is another brass player to adopt the concept.

Someone who has played in The United Women's Orchestra as well as with salsa and jazz bands, Ercklentz, is a much more in-your-face soloist. She’s sort of a Lee Morgan to Dörner’s Gillespie. Interestingly enough, she’s paired with German inside piano specialist Andrea Neumann here, who has played alongside Dörner in larger groups like the No Spaghetti Edition, BSC and Phosphor.

On the other hand, Dörner’s duo partner on DURCH UND DURCH is The Necks drummer Tony Buck. Now Berlin-based, the Australian adds an Antipodean intent to this European genre as well as real percussion timbres that contrast with Neumann’s faux percussion on the other disc.

Consisting of one 40-minute improvisation, DURCH UND DURCH is also a lower-key affair than OBERFLÄCHEBSPANNUNG. Comfortable with one another’s textures, there are times that all sounds seem to have been put through a food processor to create multi-tonal, blended colors. At the top it even takes a while to realize that one sound is that of pure air being passed through the trumpet without depressing the valves. Is this a version of Arnold Schoenberg’s Klangfarbenmelodie?

Between silences, intermittent drum top resonation and the scrape of a drumstick across cymbal tops soon detach themselves from the sine wave timbres created by the trumpeter. So do the sounds of chains and other unattached percussion being rolled and spun along drum tops. Added to the mix are static-impregnated tones and a secondary hiss from circuitry, presaging a midpoint exhibition from Buck that replicates a subway train entering a busy station — clattering along the tracks

Later, as computer-generated waveform loops threaten to take over the foreground, wire brush constrain on cymbal tops maintains the human element in what could be a modulator completing its cycle. When machine-like buzzing threatens to become stentorian, the rolling of unselected cymbals on the ground and glottal, chromatic growls redirect the acoustic output. Finally, as Buck worries a persistent bicycle bell-like tone, Dörner completes the piece as he begun it: with a guttural, cavernous expelling of air.

When “Pünktlich” and “Der kleine farmer”, the other CD’s first two tracks, follow one another seamlessly, it almost seems as if OBERFLÄCHEBSPANNUNG will be another DURCH UND DURCH. It isn’t. But neither is the piano-trumpet expression something that would be familiar to followers of Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins duos, or one between Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon.

Unlike all those players, and with the use of electronics (Ercklentz) and a mixing desk (Neumann), the duo here deliberately ignore the pianism and brassiness of their respective instruments. Both become simple — or maybe more properly complex — sound sources, nothing more.

On the first tune, for example, sounds from what seems to be the spinning of an automated circular tool in a cavernous vault are broken up with internal trumpet blows that more resemble reed tongue slaps than what can be created with a brass mouthpiece. Chirping vibrations then push into the forefront, vying for aural space with rumbling tones that could be pinball flippers or wood sawing gestures.

The second piece finds fluttering modulations from the piano harp evolving with the mixing desk to tiny cross wire interfaces and the tones of a spinning CD player. In response, Ercklentz creates baby animal whimpers that expand into jackhammer sonics as she scrapes the trumpet bell with the mike. While she whinnies chromatically fingered tones, Neumann creates celeste-like plucked string counterpoint.

Pivotal to their expression, though are the unique timbres on “Rost”, the nearly 12-minute longest track. Neumann scrapes and skims along the speaking length of the piano innards, abrasively vibrating the overtones so the mixing desk and electronics transform the tone into that of a string section. Interrupting with falsetto buzzes — also extended with electronics — Ercklentz’s loops eventually interact with the piano’s mechanized crashes and scrapes. Together they suggest how Miles Davis-like choked valve effects would meet percussive tones, which in the pianist’s hands resonate like a slap bass amplified to the nth degree. Building to a miasmic crescendo, the sound is cut off abruptly as if a knife had severed the musical feed.

Gestures such as that prove that there are plenty of surprises left to expose from the output of extended trumpet techniques. And Ercklentz is joining Dörner and others to express them.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Ober: 1. Pünktlich 2. Der kleine farmer 3. Pruh 4. Rost 5. Oberflächenspannung

Personnel: Ober: Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet and electronics); Andrea Neumann (inside piano and mixing desk)

Track Listing: Durch: 1. Durch

Personnel: Durch: Axel Dörner (trumpet and electronics); Tony Buck (drums and percussion)