Urs Leimgruber/Ulrich Phillipp/Nils Gerold

HIN
Creative Sources CS 159 CD

Organic sounds with a theist dimension, at least as the flautist is probably concerned, HIN – title undefined – matches players from three different cities in a 55-minute slab of uncompromising improv. That the result is so satisfying after it boots along in multiphonic cohesion for nearly an hour, is a tribute both to the individuals’ skill as well as the ultimate malleability of sonic free expression.

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, from Luzern, Switzerland, is the most-travelled participant here, having been in bands with players as disparate as guitarist Christy Doran and bassist Joëlle Léandre. Wuppertal-based bassist Ulrich Phillipp is a member of Zeitkratzer, among other ensembles. Meanwhile Nils Gerold from Bremen, who plays both flute and piccolo, is a frequent guest of the TonArt Ensemble and wrote his graduating thesis on religious tendencies in free jazz and improvised music.

Not that there are any overtly spiritual messages in HIN, compared to, say, John Coltrane’s later music. But the mere fact of concentrating on the coefficients of pure music, a dimension of mysticism is implicit. Like the Holy Trinity, each musician has a defined role to play, but the only transubstantiation that occurs here is the blending and altering of textures.

Essentially, throughout, Phillipp’s pulses and pops serve as both the rhythmic base which supports the two reed players as well as a Greek chorus commenting on their ethereal sonic flights. Distant at junctures, the bassist also contributes resolute string sweeps and col legno buzzing to keep the interaction chromatic. In contrast, his occasional spiccato jetes give notice that his solo skills remain untapped.

Gerold’s and Leimgruber’s game plan involves variants of connections, counterpoint and cynosure. With soprano saxophone split tones plus continuously high pitched shrieks from the other player’s traverse instruments, timbres are sometimes indistinguishable or mirrored. However to the extent that the saxophonist’s unaccented air, masked breaths and static flow keep him in the background, unexpected sequences of staccato tongue-stopping, percussive tongue slaps and masticating reed bites confirm his commitment. So does judicious use of spetrofluctuation. Similarly, although nearly continuous, the flutist’s facile and flighty peeps demand deep-breathed or resonating replies from Leimgruber’s horns. That way the dual improvisation isn’t buried beneath metallic cross tones and chirping glissandi from either man.

Magisterial, diaphragm-resonating tenor sax tones are displayed in double counterpart alongside Phillipp’s double stopping, glissandi and strained below-the-bridge pumps. Several times these are appended to split-second chirps from Gerold and Leimgruber’s nearly carnivorous reed bites. At these points intervals appear, only to gradually inflate to moderato oscillations made up of Leimgruber basset-horn like cries, rubato wisps from the flutist and spiccato slices from Phillipp in equal parts.

During the improvisation’s penultimate and ultimate variations, harmonic melding is achieved. Single-line plucks from Phillipp harden into sul ponticello string raps; Leimgruber’s whistles and tongue slaps turn to spittle-encrusted slurps, and Gerold’s haphazard flutters turn to rhythmic chirrups. Wide-bore and staccato a final conga-like slap from the bassist signals a triple-layered, atonal rapprochement.

As fascinating in its elaboration as its conclusion, HIN may confirm the spiritualism of musical exploration.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. HIN

Track Listing: Urs Leimgruber (soprano and tenor saxophones); Nils Gerold (flute and piccolo) and Ulrich Phillipp(bass)