October 3, 2007
Johannes Bauer/Thomas Lehn/Jon Rose
Jazzwerkstatt JW 010
Extended passages of triple counterpoint, broken octaves and shrilling cries characterize this bracing meeting among three top-flight improvisers. In perpetual motion, the five live tracks match textures from one of humans’ oldest instruments – the violin – played by Australia’s Jon Rose – with one of the newest – the synthesizer manipulated by Germany’s Thomas Lehn. Refereeing is German trombonist Johannes Bauer.
Hard-core tone futurists may find Lehn’s analogue model as much an antique as a viola d’amore, but the simpler interface from its wires and knobs allows him to splutter and crackle sibilant pulses that mirror the brassman’s growls and slurs on one hand and the fiddler’s dizzying stopped and squeezed arpeggios on the other. Triggered flanges and whooshes encompassing languid pitch-slides and game-boy-like clicks establish the synthesizer’s role among the blurry layers that characterize sonic face-off. Meanwhile Bauer alternately tongues slurred chromatic runs that reference New Orleans tailgate style or murmurs nonsense syllables into his body tube that suggest derangement. For his part, Rose – whose familiarity with violin techniques ranging from early music to romanticism and on to serialism and beyond is matchless – matter-of-factly tosses off passages of sul tasto bowing, flying staccato and extended quadruple stops.
Sometimes the skill set is such that electronic, brassy and catgut pulses are interchangeable. Throughout as well, each of these interludes invigorate as much as if the three were a baroque trio performing a 17th Century capriccio, rather than dedicated improvisers at the turn of the 21st Century. Plumbing sonic depths, the trio’s talents justify the title, which translates from German slang as “spoiled”. Still, prolonged exposure to Futch may make the listener “spoiled” for more conventional sounds.
— Ken Waxman
— For CODA Issue 335