Paul Hubweber & Philip Zoubek

Archiduc Concert: Dansaert Variations (2007)
Emanem 5011

Blunt, brusque and bravura, these polyphonic interpretation by German trombonist Paul Hubweber and Austrian prepared pianist Philip Zoubek represent the capacity for invention that results from instruments pushed to their limits. At the same time the tracks, recorded at a Brussels night club, are organized so that each man’s layered innovations are showcased. Along the way on two massive and two microscopic tracks, the duo moves through languid or staccato tones, altissimo or basso timbres as well as delicate and vigorous playing strategies, while allowing each individualized sound to circulate and complement one another’s.

Aachen-based, Hubweber has since the late 1970s been involved in ensembles like the Papajo trio with bassist John Edwards and drummer Paul Lovens plus a variety of duos such as one with turntablist Claus van Bebber and another with bassist Georg Wolf. Born around the time Hubweber first started playing professionally, Zoubek, now a Köln resident, has, over the past few years, worked with musicians ranging from trombonist Matthias Muche to bassist Achim Tang. Functioning as equal partners here, the pianist and trombonist get to show off abstract inventions and staccato dynamics during the shorter tunes. Extravagantly imaginative and connective playing is more comfortably showcased during the two tracks that clock in at either side of 25 minutes however.

Broadening his piano palate with items attached to the instrument’s strings, which are then stopped, pumped, strummed and plucked at opportune moments, Zoubek also uses pedal emphasis and key clatter to make his points. At times his touch brings out a wooden, clavichord-like sound from the keys; elsewhere his timing is processional and almost classically legato. Pumping polytones and percussive polyrhythms are commonly introduced, but their function is to make common cause with Hubweber’s sack-full of extended brass techniques. One of the trombonist’s solos is based around stop-time gutbucket cries, followed by pumping chromatic slide augmentations and wrapped up with airy, echoing slurs. Another finds trombone air-straining and tongue-fluttering encircling kinetic piano expressions that repetitively resonate along the capotes and bottom boards in order to establish a theme.

The two reach a climax of sorts on “Plexo” where fat, brassy glissandi on the trombonist’s part help direct the pianist’s vibrating string crunches and metronomic key clipping towards an interlude that reflects and complements the brass outpouring. Disjointed blats and tongue-stopping eventually are transformed into solidifying purrs as the pianist’s string-and-node-stopping solidifies into similar harmonic timbres.

Proving their instruments’ versatility within expressive, yet unexpected, synchronization are what should be termed Hubweber’s and Zoubek’s “dansaert variations”. Most noticeably, these variants expand both instruments’ musical vocabulary without ever losing the thread of polyphonic cooperation they begin.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Mean Machine 2. Lab 4 3. Plexo 4. Plafond

Personnel: Paul Hubweber (trombone) and Philip Zoubek (prepared piano)