December 18, 2007
Nobody’s Matter But Our Own
Nurnichtnur 106 02 08
Post-unification, Berlin’s prominence as the major German city which attracts many artists of all sorts at times threatens to overshadow equally important – yet distant – local scenes. This same major city complex – New Yorkers take note – frequently also marginalizes notable players who live outside that capital city’s confines.
Take trombonists as one example. When it comes to Free Music, the Berlin-based Bauer brothers, Johannes and Conrad, are first in most jazzers’ consciousness. Yet Paul Hubweber, 54, whose orientation like many other German improvisers has been physically anywhere but Berlin, often doesn’t get his due respect, despite a nearly 30-year recording history. This fine CD, recorded in Köln with younger pianist Phillip Zoubeck, should rectify this.
Slurry, blurry and boisterous, Hubweber’s style is a link between the earlier Free Jazz playing of soloists like Albert Mangelsdorf and the sound-source applications of younger brassmen like trumpeter Axel Dörner. What that essentially means is that on a series of shortish and one long – more than 21½ minutes – tracks here, the trombonist and pianist are able to produce more varied and supplementary timbres than you would expect from two instruments.
Zoubeck, barely 30, who also works with ensembles like the James Choice Orchestra, favors the prepared piano here. Pulling, plucking and stopping internal strings, he adds a percussiveness to underscore Hubweber’s extended technical forays. Preparations aren’t his only approach to the keyboard however. On the andante “What Else Can I Say”, a vibrated timbre is gradually shaped into an echoing note cluster, reminiscent of some of the piano work of The Necks’ Chris Abrahams. Its resonance encompasses soundboard reflections as much as key pressure. And this stylistic inference is used elsewhere as well.
Hubweber, whose improvising partners over the years have included saxophonist Georg Wissel, with whom he organized a musicians’ cooperation in Köln, and Kleave-based turntablist Claus van Bebber, is a long-time team player. Using his triple-tonguing and plunger tones sparingly, he picks up on Zoubeck’s movements to amplify the performance moods. Extended running keyboard vibrations bring forth slurred, low-key extensions, for instance. Meanwhile, a piece like “Not Against JC?”, which includes key pummeling, vibrating capotes and speaking length plus knife-like stopped strings from the pianist, calls for a different strategy from the ‘bone man.. Here his brass sound involves blowing colored air through the tube as a secondary spit tone creates another, complementary air stream.
Abraded textures from both men characterize the extended “Night” as staccatissimo accumulations of colored air sound among the flashing, ringing piano lines. Going Zoubeck one better, the trombonist manages to expand his flattened and bent gravelly pedal tones to quiver in a similar fashion to how the pianist gets his instrument’s action to vibrate. Using hocketing pauses and half-valve effects, Hubweber’s fortissimo bubbles and brays adumbrate both the pianist’s percussive whaling and hammering and his expanded scrapes, clicks and clipping. By the conclusion offbeat melodiousness joins the vibrational face-off.
A CD to seek out and to closely study.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Moving Forward 2. Night 3, Nobody’s Matter But Our Own 4. Not Against JC? 5. What Else Can I Say 6. Over the Blue 7. Endor
Personnel: Paul Hubweber (trombone) and Phillip Zoubek (piano and preparations)