Die Enttäuschung
Intakt CD 125

Known for its repertoire performance of Thelonious Monk tunes, the Berlin-based Die Enttäuschung quartet showcases its own compositions on this notable CD. Along the way the band proves that rhythmic excitement can be mated with serpentine melodies and unusual improvisational forays.

Trumpeter Axel Dörner, whose style usually probes the outer limits of raspy noise and microtonal vibrations, here surprisingly adopts a muted, tongue-fluttering output that erects polytonal pointillism along with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall. For his part, the reedist matches low-pitched renal snorts or squeaking altissimo smears with Dörner’s output in such a way Booker Little. Should one horn player explode into pitch-sliding expansions in his instrument’s highest range, then the other decorates that foray with a soothing obbligato, keeping the end product as grounded as any Monk line.

Although, except for the odd reverberation, bassist Jan Roder, stays too far in the background, inventive drummer Uli Jennessen makes up for this. Using both his palms and sticks, backbeat ruffs, blunt bounces and Latinesque wood block concussions vary the beat with unexpected patterning.

A caveat: while the 17 shortish tracks on this CD may show off the members of Die Enttäuschung’s individual compositional versatility, fewer, longer numbers would give them all scope for more illuminating and extensive improvisations. More than piano-less Monk interpreters, the German band shows that it’s capable of music as inventive – if not yet as timeless – as that of its American mentor.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 336